Whitespace for Innovation in Nutritional Products
How intuitive eating could create opportunities for both innovation and brands.
21 Mar 2022
It is no secret that consumer perceptions of health and wellbeing have evolved over time. While many consumers of the past have prioritised weight loss at any cost, the modern consumer has shifted focus to a more holistic and multi-faceted form of wellbeing. As consumers move away from restrictive diets and gruelling exercise regimes in favour of health measures that nourish the mind, body, and soul, we have witnessed the emergence of intuitive eating as a growing trend among consumers.
As Fonterra continues to explore mental wellbeing as a complement to physical health, we wanted to highlight the rise of intuitive eating as an interesting health and wellness practice, that could create opportunities for both innovation and brand or product (re) positioning.
While some consumers have returned to dieting in full force as a result of post pandemic weight gain, over:
of US consumers agree that the frequently used term “dieting” is outdated for weight loss1.
Studies have demonstrated that weight-loss dieting is often unsustainable and actually leads to weight gain among people2.
Additionally, fixation with weight loss has implications on an individual’s mental health, often having a detrimental effect on their weight and body image. There is now a growing awareness that the number on the scale is influenced by more than careful calorie counting, but also by the right nutrition, physical activity, robust mental wellness, and stress management.
Introducing Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating, a term first coined by two nutritionists in the 1990s.
An anti-diet philosophy that focuses on nurturing the body, rather than on the biology of starvation3.
The goal of intuitive eating isn’t focused on the ‘how’ of weight management (calorie counting and physical activity), but rather the ‘why’ of weight loss (including motivators, stress, and mental health). The ten principles of intuitive eating were identified by the UK British Heart Foundation and are called out below.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating4
- Reject the diet mentality
- Recognise your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the ‘food police’
- Feel your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Cope with your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise and feel the difference
- Honour your health
This message is clearly resonating with US consumers.
When asked, “How healthy or unhealthy do you consider the following eating styles/specialised diet plans?” over:
of those asked considered intuitive eating as healthy5.
While weight loss certainly isn’t a focus for this trend, a review of 26 studies has shown that those who follow intuitive eating principles generally weigh less than those on restrictive diets6.
A more recent literature review, of 68 publications, noted that mindfulness-based dieting approaches appeared effective for addressing behaviours such as binge eating, emotional eating, and eating in response to external factors.
This mindful approach to food may also prevent weight gain – however the affects were less apparent in healthy weight groups, with reduced food intake seen in studies of overweight or obese populations7. This opens up a range of new possibilities for brands to develop products that tap into mindful eating to support consumers on their health and wellness journeys.
Intuitive Eating Principles
Unlike restrictive dieting regimes, intuitive eating principles do not impose strict meal plans or exclusionary recipes on consumers. They also have no specific nutritional guidelines, which may be why brands have previously struggled to find a foothold for messaging. While products for keto are developed with specific fat, protein, and carbohydrate ratios in mind, intuitive eating does not impose definitive dieting rules on people.
However, if one looks beyond macros and instead turns to psychological and physiological benefit claims, there are opportunities to support intuitive eaters to achieve their goals.
Reflecting on the ten principles of intuitive eating; ‘feel your fullness’ and ‘recognise your hunger’ clearly aligns with the physiology of satiety, the feeling or state of being full and satisfied after a meal.
A brand could consider using messaging including “reduced feelings of hunger,” or “increased feelings of fullness,” as satiety claims. Fonterra makes these claims for products that contain ten or more grams of dairy protein.
This health-food relationship has been established by systematic review, with the products assessed under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC), a nutrient profiling system for determining whether a product can make a particular health claim.
Furthermore, brands could consider formulating for satiety benefits by using these two key principles of intuitive eating on the product pack or in their point-of-sale messaging.
The Impact of Stress on Weight Management
Stress impacts weight management both physiologically, by influencing hormones like cortisol, but also psychologically, impacting selfregulation and dietary restraint.
Stress eating is a vicious cycle, where one employs comfort eating as a coping mechanism. This may lead to weight gain, which can lead to more stress, and in turn, more comfort eating, which perpetuates the negative cycle.
As dieters start to restrict their calorie intake to address weight gain, they often end up binge eating off-limit treats after a period of suffering from their extreme diet. This starts the cycle all over again without addressing the core problem.
However, as consumers increasingly consider their psychological and physiological health together, brands can support them to address both needs by debunking the need to excessively restrict calories and instead promote products that simultaneously support physical and mental wellbeing, recognising that elements of health are interdependent.
Article continues in this month's NZMP Perspective (click below to read).
GM Marketing – Active Living, Fonterra
Victoria leads the global marketing team for Fonterra’s ‘Active Living’ business unit, whose scope includes all adult health. This encompasses the pillars of physical, mental, and inner wellbeing, and extends across the segments of healthy active consumers through to medical patients. During her eight years with Fonterra, she has held various marketing and insights roles, primarily focused on advanced nutrition solutions, and spanning the markets of North America, Europe, and APAC (Asia-Pacific). Victoria holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Auckland, majoring in Biomedical Science, with a particular focus in nutrition. Her interest in the commercial applications of science led her to pursue the inter-disciplinary Masters of Bioscience Enterprise.
The views expressed above are the opinion of the author, not those of Fonterra, and Fonterra is not responsible for any decisions taken in reliance on the same.
- Figure. 1: Better for you eating trends. Mintel, 2019.
- 1. Weight Management Strategies - Addressing Obesity. FMCG Gurus, 2019.
- 2. Slim Chance for Permanent Weight Loss. Rothblum, 2018.
- 3. Intuitive eating: A recovery book for the chronic dieter: Rediscover the pleasures of eating and rebuild your body image. Tribole & Resch, 1996.
- 4. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/weight/intuitive-eating/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating.
- 5. Better for you Eating Trends. Formanski, 2019.
- 6. Relationships between intuitive eating and heath indicators. Van Dyke & Drinkwater, 2013.
- 7. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Warren et al, 2017.