Brands ignoring consumer emotion 'missing a trick'

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages - Choosing supplements / Luke Chan
GettyImages - Choosing supplements / Luke Chan

Related tags Industry Probiotics Prebiotics microbiome consumer behavior

Gut health industry experts suggest the industry is “missing a trick” during a webinar hosted by Food Ingredients (FI) Global, as they point out purchase decisions are based on emotion, not scientific research.

Elizabeth Draper, senior content producer for market analysts FI Global, welcomed industry specialists to share their insights on the gut health market in a webinar broadcast on 25th April.

Niamh Michail, senior content editor at FI Global, opened with the view that the body of scientific evidence supporting the importance of gut health is still growing, with areas such as mental, cognitive, metabolic, and immune health being explored.

She noted that as consumer understanding of gut health develops, the way that suppliers can evolve is to “tap into the trend and leverage the science that’s happening.”

Qualitative research

Dr Miguel Toribio-Mateas, head of research and development for kefir company Chuckling Goat, joined the conversation, saying that he thinks the industry is missing a trick.

He explained there is an opportunity to evolve on how the industry gathers and responds to data, explaining: “Consumer food choices are evolving rapidly in this [gut health] field, and food choices are highly emotional.

“There's an opportunity for future trials to actually incorporate bigger elements of qualitative research that actually puts that voice of the participant as a consumer more in the picture.”

He elaborated that while ensuring safety through trials is imperative, with randomised controlled trials as the gold standard, they discount the human element.

He explained: “If we are just sticking to the randomised controlled trials, as we do typically around food products, the person just becomes a number.

“We know that the evidence is robust, but then we're ignoring what that person has got to tell us. And when that person is basing everything on emotions, those emotions are leading food choices, and those food choices are going to have an impact on their gut health.”

He concluded with the consideration that qualitative aspects need to be considered, suggesting: “Maybe people who work in the industry need a combination of different sets of skills that incorporate thoughts, understanding, and things that are maybe not taught in science, technology, nutrition or clinical-based degrees.”

Untapped potential

Michael Hughes, head of research and insight at FMCG Gurus, confirmed that while increasing numbers of consumers are turning to biotics, there remains a gap in the knowledge.

He stated: “Currently, only around 15% of consumers say that they've heard of the gut microbiome.

“However, a much higher proportion of consumers say that they're aware of beneficial bacteria that exist in products, and they also want to see these claims on these products.”

He explained this illustrates consumer awareness is still growing, and data shows increased purchasing of pre and post biotics in the last couple of years, with consumers increasingly open to see claims which include high bacteria content.

However, Hughes commented that whilst awareness is growing, “consumers can sometimes lack understanding of the difference between a probiotic and a prebiotic, and how they complement each other in the gut.”

He elaborated that this confusion increases potential risk of customers choosing one product over the other, misunderstanding them as interchangeable and missing the benefits of each.

He goes on to say that while the industry understands that there's an opportunity around biotics, there is a need for further education and communication for the consumer, stating: “I think with prebiotics and postbiotics, it offers a lot of untapped potential.

“In the businesses of day-to-day life, customers can’t always take the time to stop and make informed decisions. The thing that makes them pick up a product is the benefit rather than the ingredients.

“There's a massive opportunity around this. But I think you ultimately need to lead with benefits and then support that with the ingredients and the science behind it.”

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