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Canadians on Healthy Living: The Brain-and-Heart Tug Of War
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Canadians on Healthy Living: The Brain-and-Heart Tug Of War

When it comes to food and beverage consumption, Canadians’ intentions don’t always align with their actions. So as the heart pulls right and the brain tugs left as they roam the grocery aisles, there’s often an opportunity of white space between the two. It takes a certain blend of savvy to identify and satisfy that middle ground, but for the manufacturers and retailers that do, the result is a win-win for them as well as for consumers.

For example, a majority of Canadians consider themselves overweight (59%), and half the country admits to trying to lose weight (52%). Among those battling the extra pounds, 84% say they’re changing their diets – presenting an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to be an ally to consumers trying to make better food choices.

And what an opportunity that is. When asked about new products consumers wish were on the market but aren’t, close to one-quarter of Canadian respondents agreed that items fitting a healthy lifestyle (23%) and those made of natural ingredients (22%) are it. Indeed, in Nielsen’s recent Health and Wellness study, 30% of consumers stated that no artificial colours, no artificial flavours and natural flavours are very important attributes they look for when deciding what items make it into their shopping baskets. But that’s not all. Many Canadian consumers are willing to pay a little extra for attributes like all natural (19%) and organic (18%).

Fresh is in. So is simplicity. Even though Canadians are starved for time—and convenience has become a necessity more than a luxury—they do have an implicit need for simple ingredient lists and unprocessed options in the food and beverage aisles they shop. This is particularly true among consumers who are invested in health and fitness goals. For this consumer group, healthy, nutritious and fresh may overrule convenience and ease, which means they will look to manufacturers and retailers that help them meet their quest to buy natural and simple.

Healthy, better-for-you offerings aren’t an exclusive opportunity for new products. Repositioning a brand using sought-after attributes like natural flavours or whole grains will grab the attention of consumers who are concerned about eating healthy. Brands can also re-invent existing products into healthy by daring to visit crowded, undifferentiated spaces and making them stand out in the crowd.

Being green has never been easy

Although Canadians say they’re concerned about the environment and social causes, there is an apparent disconnection between saying and doing. A timid 7% say that they’ve bought new products from brands that care about the environment, and an even lower number (4%) cite corporate social responsibility as the reason for a new product purchase. However, product availability might be the reason earth-conscious consumers aren’t stocking up – 19% of Canadian respondents say they wish more eco-friendly products were available, and 11% wish more products came from socially responsible brands. The Nielsen Global New Product Innovation Survey, however, also identified 12- and 7-percentage-point gaps between what consumers say they’ll buy and what consumers actually buy when it comes to buying products because of their environmental or social benefits.

A perception of high prices and premium status surround environmental and socially responsible brands, however consumers also recognize a lack of the attributes they’re looking for in the marketplace. Better product labeling, shelf placement and promotion tactics that encourage trial can go a long way in closing the gap between desire and availability.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Health & Wellness Survey was conducted between Aug. 13 and Sept. 5, 2014. The Nielsen Global New Product Innovation Survey was conducted between Feb. 23 and March 13, 2015. For the purposes of the New Product Innovation study, we defined a new product as any item a consumer has never purchased before. Each of these surveys polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The samples collected for each survey have quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. They have margins of error of ±0.6%. The Nielsen surveys are based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.