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Fearful and faddish: the business opportunity in how Australians are eating now

Fearful and faddish: the business opportunity in how Australians are eating now

Food fads and fixations are something we usually associate with neurotic mums and inner-city hipsters. Make my latte biodynamic, nut-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free. With a twist of organic lemon.

And yet when men in their 40s in Dubbo start discussing how going sugar-free has changed their lives, you realise that food fetishism has crept beyond its niche. (“I’ve been trying to be like Sarah Wilson, that sugar-free style . . .”)

In our recent “Mind & Mood” study, released in late April, men and women across different life-stages talked at length about their food obsessions and recent diet trials. Going gluten-free for the (often self-diagnosed) gluten-intolerant was seen as essential to clear skin and digestion (“Alex has now decided he’s gluten-free. Despite having all the tests under the sun, which came back fine, he insists that he can’t have gluten”). The Paleo approach was popular as was cutting down on refined sugars. (“I’ve done the Paleo diet. It’s looking at your sugar intake more. Eating as much as you like, but going back to the natural.”)

This cave-man, anti-sugar approach has brought about a new approach to fat, an embrace of full fat and animal fats over “diet products”. (“The rules for dieters are all different now. They say you should eat more full-fat stuff and not so much fruit and processed carbs.”) Of course, nothing thrills us more than being told that formerly “bad foods” (cheese, butter, red wine, chocolate) are OK – even beneficial – now.

And thanks to Michelle Bridges and her ilk, super foods such as quinoa have hit suburban menus. It’s all about foods that are nutrient dense, protein rich and keep you fuller for longer. (“You are not hungry if you have quinoa . . . It really does feel very filling.”)

It’s not all about the new super ingredient or food to avoid at all costs. Gadgets such as the Thermomix or the DreamPot make all this home preparation of sugar-free, kale-rich foods so much easier. (“So is this Thermomix the answer to people who haven’t got much time to cook?” “Have you heard of DreamPots? The grey nomads use them all the time.”)

Those Australians fixated on food choices are a substantial group and predicted to grow.

In Ipsos’s annual Food Health Report, we identified a segment of Australians focused on all of the food concerns listed above. We call them “Fearful and Faddish” and they make up 29 per cent of the sample of 3000 Australians surveyed for the study (the second-largest segment after the segment driven by convenience at all costs, further evidence of the polarisation of our nation’s eating habits). They are predominantly female (lots of main grocery buyers in this group including mums) and urban dwellers. They tend to shop the most often and favour organic foods. In terms of mindset, they are anxious and aware; issues such as genetically modified foods, food intolerances and allergies are of concern to them. They are enthusiastic consumers of protein shakes and soy products. They are the most likely to feel as if their diet needs to be augmented with vitamins and supplements such as Omega 3, vitamin D, iron and calcium.

Interestingly, they still love to eat out, get takeaway and consume pre-made meals but they are prepared to pay well for others to cook the kinds of meals that they would like to prepare themselves at home … free from this and that, using high-quality ingredients and so on. Herein is the opportunity for both the food services and the food manufacturing sector to provide this kind of food in a convenient format. (One area of food service that is sorely in need of a revamp to reflect this growing food fetishism – food on and around air travel. Ditch the biscuits, sweet muffins and stodgy sandwiches please, Qantas.)

It looks as if for many of us, the future of food in Australia is more Sumo Salad than Subway.


*Original Article by Rebecca Huntley: