Around 40% of people in the UK are suffering from ‘food paranoia’, and are following specialised diets as a result, according to a recent survey.
Retail analysts Nielsen have discovered that people are trying to avoid specific medical conditions with their diets, as well as avoiding foods seen as unhealthy.
New Food Paranoia
So what is food paranoia? It’s the fear or suspicion of a certain food or food group which can be seen as bad for your health. Recently, more and more people have been restricting their diets in order to cut out things that they feel will damage their systems.
The most feared conditions, which one in five people say they are eating to avoid, are high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Although it is certainly wise to avoid these conditions as much as possible, some could be taking their paranoia too far – cutting certain things out of their diets entirely to avoid any risk of them happening.
In fact, in most cases, it’s down to how much we eat and how we prepare it, rather than what it is – just ask any development chefs, who know full well how a small serving of an ingredient seen as unhealthy can actually boost the overall health benefits of a product.
As a result of this newfound food paranoia, some products are seeing sales drop dramatically. These are largely ingredients such as salt, grains, eggs, and dairy – with many people switching to pseudo-vegan or gluten-free diets in an attempt to improve their health.
The issue is particularly felt with sugar retailers, as supermarket sales have gone down by as much as 8.1% during the course of a single year.
Soups in cans and cartons, which tend to be high in salt, have dropped by 10.7%. Meanwhile, 42% of those surveyed said that they were on a diet which excluded or limited the consumption of certain foods or products.
Nielsen spokesman Mike Watkins said: ‘People are adopting a more back-to-basics mindset, focusing on simple ingredients and fewer processed foods. They’re also taking a more active role in their own health care.’
12% of people in the UK have opted to go gluten-free – a choice which may, ironically, be harmful to their health if they do not regain a balanced diet.
The survey results go on to say that, ‘Antibiotics/hormones are the most common ingredients avoided (49 per cent), followed by artificial additives, such as flavours, preservatives and sweeteners (45 per cent) and then sugar (42 per cent).’
A New Shift
It’s clear that retailers are going to have to make a new shift in attitudes if they want to see sales bouncing back. New product development will need to focus on catering for specific diets, with ingredients highlighted and dietary products created.
All of this is great news for those who were already vegan or were gluten-free for health reasons, as supermarket ranges are expanding already to cover their needs. Most major supermarkets have brought out new vegan ranges in the last few years, while free-from aisles are growing in size from the miniature section that they would have been in the past.
It remains to be seen whether this new focus on checking ingredients for buzzwords will last, or whether it is a flash in the pan – such as the Atkins Diet, which demanded the removal of carbohydrates from the diet but became less popular very quickly. However, it is never a bad thing for consumers to request more transparency about the journey from farm to fork – and this is certainly happening today.