Trimming the Fat: Aussies focus on diet to lose weight, but are we buying healthy?

Trimming the Fat: Aussies focus on diet to lose weight, but are we buying healthy?


Globally, people are desperately trying to lose weight. With overweight and obese people making up close to a third (2.1 billion) of the global population, consumers are focusing on a healthy diet to lose the extra kilos. Now more than ever, the manufacturing and retail industries have a real opportunity to benefit from this phenomenon.

Nielsen’s recent Global Health and Wellness Survey highlights the increasing consumer desire for health foods, with half of respondents globally trying to lose weight and 88% signalling that they are willing to pay more for food with healthy attributes. Likewise, 80% of the 30,000 respondents worldwide are actively using food to prevent health issues and medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.

This is mirrored locally, where consumers are turning to ‘healthy foods’ to curb our growing waist lines and combat medical issues. In Australia, more than half (56%) of us believe we are overweight and 78% think changing our diet to lose weight is more important than physical exercise (72%). The health craze has well and truly hit; we’re looking at our diet more closely, which is being reflected in our buying habits.

Nielsen HomeScan data shows the total grocery health foods category in Australia is growing at 8.2%. More than two thirds (69%) of households have bought health food products in the past year. This presents a huge opportunity for local manufacturers looking to explore new product innovations and extensions – but it’s about hitting the right mix of healthy ingredients that are also appealing to the masses.

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Most Australians (83%) believe the statement “I am what I eat” and they are employing various tactics to lose weight the healthy way. With the rise of books like Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’, cutting out sweets and sugar is becoming more popular, with more Australians (69%) cutting out sugar – higher than the global average (62%).

Popular diets are also appearing to influence our opinions on what is good and bad. The 5:2 diet, Atkins high-protein diet and many others have changed the way we view traditional ‘no nos’. Fat’s reputation as the number one dietary enemy has decreased across the globe with two-thirds of respondents saying they are cutting down on fats, a decline from 70% reported in Nielsen’s 2011 Global Health and Wellness Survey. Carbs remain a key health no-go in Asia Pacific, which leads the world in the adoption of low-carb diets with one-third saying they follow such a regimen.

From the latest report, it appears that campaigns such as the government funded “Go for 2&5” which champion the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables are having a positive effect, with Australians planning to eat more of the two food groups (+59%). Nielsen’s retail industry research also shows that the specialised health foods market share is growing at 12.6%, while weight management (e.g. Meal Replacement bars/drinks) category growth is in decline in supermarkets at -4.3%. This points to a growing trend toward fresh fruit and vegetables over or in addition to dietary management products

Fresh food people

The fresh food category is undeniably growing in Australia with growth increasing 4.4% in the last year. Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey records a quarter of respondents saying they would purchase more fruit (25%) and vegetables (26%) in the next six months. Four in five Australians also prefer to cook at home so they are aware of what is in their food and one in five plans to buy less frozen meals; a clear indicator of an increasing need for health foods in store.

When it comes to health foods, Nielsen HomeScan data shows Coles is leading from a market share perspective, holding a 36% share of the category, ahead of Woolworths at 34%. Private Label products are also experiencing growth in the Health Foods category, up 18%, with 36% of households purchasing from this category at least once in the last year. This corresponds to the in store experience, where fresh food sections are being remodelled into hubs of the supermarket, with larger displays and increasing variety.

Innovations such as Woolworths Macro brand and Coles Organic selection represent some of the ways retailers are adapting to a growing need for healthy, organically sourced products. For example, new product development in the hummus category – a food not even recognised 20 years ago but now a stable diet item for many – also shows the industry is beginning to listen to their consumers and provide different options for health conscious Australians.

While there is still a place for indulgent offerings, there is a tremendous opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers to follow the consumer’s lead on the health movement. By providing products and services that consumers want and need in the health foods category, manufacturers and retailers stand to build market share and increased sales.

Diet and exercise reign as the enduring formula for weight loss, so product development must follow this pattern if manufacturers want to thrive. Effective marketing of their relevant product innovations will reach the right consumers for trial and brand loyalty.

About the Nielsen Health and Wellness Report

The Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to identify how consumers feel about their body image and the steps they’re taking to get healthier. We also provide insights into the product attributes that are most important in purchase decisions and which ones consumers are willing to pay more for. We take an in-depth look at purchasing trends and future intentions to identify opportunities that will help manufacturers better align offerings to consumer needs and desires.

Download the full report here.