These days, it’s fair to say that the national desire to lead year-round healthier lifestyles by eating ‘better’ and exercising more is fast becoming all-consuming. According to new figures from Leatherhead Food Research’s Diet, Health and Obesity in the UK Report, more than 80% of consumers now claim to follow a healthy diet (an increase of 10% since 2004).

Compared with research conducted in 2004, consumers now have a much broader level of understanding of what constitutes a ‘healthy’ diet, which now includes a greater emphasis on eating fresh fruit and vegetables (95% saw this as important in 2012), having a balanced diet (87% in 2012) and drinking enough fluid (74% in 2012).

Laura Kempster, senior analyst from Leatherhead’s sensory, consumer and market research department, says: “According to our findings, a greater proportion of consumers now find time to cook from scratch, exercise and are generally more informed and engaged with food,” she adds.

What shoppers want from their ‘healthier’ products has also changed over time. Today’s health-conscious shoppers want natural products that are low in fat and sugar but, crucially, which taste good and are fun to eat.

“Healthier eating has moved on from the days of regime, dieting and guilt, to responsible enjoyment,” Hena Chandarana, shopper marketing controller at UBUK explains. “People want tasty, indulgent snacks that they can feel good about eating.”

Responding to this trend UBUK’s healthier biscuit brand Go-ahead! launched its first chocolate variant in pricemarked packs this year, in orange, strawberry and cherry.

Müller Dairy is observing a similar demand over in the dairy aisle. Marketing director Michael Inpong says that while yogurts are generally seen as a healthy part of a balanced diet, providing calcium and other key nutrients, consumers are increasingly looking for indulgence and treat appeal. Enter the new Müllerlight Limited Edition Turkish Delight flavour yogurt sprinkled with dark chocolate. It joins Strawberry Sublime Müllerlight Greek Style yogurt - the fifth flavour to join the Müllerlight Greek Style line-up.

This desire for fun, innovative healthy foods is also fuelling growth within the crisps and snacks category, where brands such as Warburtons’ healthy Baked Naan Chips and Baked Pitta Chips are performing well. However, one of the most interesting sectors of 2012, and undoubtedly 2013, is popcorn. Bigger brands such as Tyrrells have been quick to make the most of the trend, as have small producer brands. Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou explains: “Propercorn has fewer calories than crisps and is also high in fibre and wholegrain, but the key thing is that consumers don’t have to sacrifice on taste.”

Propercorn is available in four flavours in 20g servings, rrp 80p. Popular sellers include savoury flavours sour cream & chive and lightly sea salted, in line with another emerging trend - the resurgence of savoury.

According to UBUK, 2012 saw a resurgence in the popularity of savoury biscuits, with the category growing by 16% year on year. “Not only are savoury biscuits suitable for lunch, but they also provide a tasty alternative to bread and crisps,” the company’s Chandarana adds.

This trend has also seen the rise of better-for-you baked snacks such as Jacob’s Oddities.

According to Chandarana, the number of men purchasing better-for-you alternatives is also growing, challenging the historic place of women forming the large part of the market.

However, what hasn’t changed is the desire for shoppers to start the year on a healthy note after over-indulgences at Christmas. As Emily Turner, customer marketing manager at Onken, points out: “The new year is still a time when this becomes even more prevalent as resolutions are made for the year ahead.”

Sales of Müllerlight tend to double in the early part of the new year, Müller’s Inpong adds. “The number of households purchasing Müllerlight can be up to 50% higher in January when compared to the average number of households purchasing during other months of the year.”

And it’s not just the yogurt category that benefits, as Richard Cox, commercial director of Baxters Food Group, points out: “In January the health message tends to become prevalent across all meals, with increased sales of cereal bars for breakfast, healthy soups for lunch, jacket potato with cottage cheese for dinner, to increasing fruit and nut snack options,” he says. Last January sales of its Healthy range of soups were 20% higher than the previous year.

So if you want to ensure that your profits look healthy right from the start of the year, put the focus on better-for-you foods. Try grouping low-calorie lines together prepare healthy recipe suggestions and offer some healthier meal accompaniments. That way, you’ll add to your bottom line, while shoppers try to shrink theirs.•

Ones to watch

Weighty issues

Vimto Soft Drinks has launched a national consumer campaign with a ‘New Year, New You’ strapline, in a bid to boost sales of its WeightWatchers fruit flavoured cordials and RTDs. Targeting the women’s lifestyle press in January and February, the campaign will be kickstarted with ads in the February WeightWatchers magazine. Ads will feature a coupon offering 50p off products.
rrp: RTDs £1.15
tel: 01925 220 122

Souper idea

This January soup brand Baxters will continue to develop its two-week eating plan - The Stay Full Challenge - that promises to keep consumers feeling fuller for longer. The meal plan, which can be downloaded from, offers daily meal options comprising one can of Stay Full soup for either lunch or dinner. The company also has a Baxters Stay Full Facebook page, while is a hub for recipe ideas.
tel: 0141 418 5700

Canned heat

Princes has launched a new range of tuna salads to invigorate the added-value tuna sector. Tapping into the lucrative lunchtime market, the range includes Tomato Salsa and French-, Mexican- and Italian-style tuna salads. The recipes have been developed to produce a range that is both convenient and high in protein and low in saturated fat. The range is packaged in a 210g bowl with fork.
rrp: £1.99
tel: 0151 966 7000

Going halves

Warburtons recently expanded its offering in the healthy wrapped bread sector with its Half & Half Medium loaf. It follows the launch of the Half & Half Toastie Loaf in October. The latest addition contains a blend of white and wholemeal flour, and offers a source of fibre. The 750g square cut loaves give consumers more versatility for healthier sandwiches and toast.
rrp: £1.25
tel: 0800 243 684