Eat me, drink me: the rise and rise of nutrition hacking
15th October 2021

The rise and rise of nutrition hacking

Eat me, drink me: the rise and rise of nutrition hacking

Much more than just a tummy filler or a thirst quencher, food and drink has gone through the looking glass to take on new meaning as a problem solver. Reaching far beyond the blanket iron-fortification of breakfast cereal, today’s brands target specific health concerns, and shapeshift to meet consumer needs.

Buying foods that have been hacked to improve nutrition is practically mandatory, especially for younger shoppers, with 42% of 18-34 year-olds willing to pay at least 10% more for a product with wellness benefits, according to research from The Grocer.

Misfits, a vegan, plant-based, carbon-neutral and soon-to-be plastic-free brand of protein bars, has sold more than five million bars worldwide since launch. It now also offers protein powder and gut-health capsules, to boost energy and immunity. And with a specific mission to educate women about the power of protein in the female diet, Misfits has created a strong emotional connection with its followers.

Food with benefits

Feeling stressed, tired, lacking in cognitive agility? Whether more energy, an immunity boost, or a decent night’s sleep is required – the solution is available in functional foods created with extra benefits. Brands not only have the opportunity to make consumers feel good through enjoyment of their product, but also to solve problems in their lives, thus building deeper relationships than ever before.

Take Nightfood, an ice cream designed for evening snacking and developed in answer to the quest for better relaxation and sleep. Now stocked in more than a thousand US Walmart stores, it is “a mainstream product because we’re solving a mainstream problem”, says Sean Folkson, the brand’s founder and CEO. Nightfood is also proof that food brands capitalising on health can still tick the indulgence box.

But it’s not only emerging brands that have caught onto the sleep trend, Pepsico launched its Driftwell product in March, with a view to helping consumers relax and fall asleep.

For brands, adding an extra facet to their product’s list of benefits is a tempting way to level up the product, and increase appeal to younger health-conscious consumers.

Take control of virus protection

The pandemic has not only been a huge driver for consumers wanting to de-stress; the need to take control of their own health and wellbeing – and seek out ways to protect themselves from Covid – has also been front-of-mind.

No surprise then, that John West Tuna has launched fortified nutrient-rich variants that promise energy, immunity and heart health through added vitamins B6 & B12, vit-C, and omega 3 respectively. Almost half of UK adults responding to a Grocer survey said a vitamin boost would be of most interest to them when choosing a wellness-related food.

There is also a raft of products, such as CocoaVia, that can be added to existing foods, or used to create new recipes, in order to eat for health. The opportunity for culinary exploration, and to create Insta-worthy health-halo dishes such as Maple Cinnamon Overnight Oats make this seem far more appealing than swallowing several vitamin tablets each day.

But this is just the beginning.

A major shift in food production and consumption is on its way, with consumers increasingly cognisant of how they are fuelling their bodies, especially through apps that deliver independent nutritional scores for products via a quick barcode scan.

Food and drink brands are teetering on the edge of a brand-new rabbit hole: the opportunity to deliver personalised health benefits based on individualised needs. Already a market worth $8.2bn in 2020, and predicted to double to $16.4bn by 2025, personalised nutrition is set to play a vital role in disease prevention, and alleviate major social health issues such as obesity.

The advent of personalised nutrition, based on metabolic type or genetic testing, may seem niche today, but one day will become the norm. And when it does, will your brand be at the tea party?

Mike Foster, founder and creative director, Straight Forward Design