Consumers’ definition of ‘healthy’ is layered, and businesses that want to position themselves for the future need to know the inside story, writes food industry author Sharon Natoli.

At a conference in New York in 2016, then president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company in the US, Denise Morrison, declared, ‘The food industry is in a time of revolution.’

No doubt she was right. The shift in sales growth from brands owned by large, traditional food businesses to smaller, niche players indicates how our shopping and eating preferences are changing.

One of the key drivers of this change is strong consumer interest in health as a consideration in food purchasing decisions. According to Euromonitor’s latest Health & Wellness in Australia report, the impact health consciousness is having on consumer’s food and beverage purchases continues to increase year on year.

However, just like fashion changes over time, so too do the beliefs consumers hold about what they perceive ‘healthy food’ to be. While changes associated with individual nutrients, ingredients or foods make up our year-on-year trends these tend to come and go.

What we are experiencing right now, however, is a fundamental shift in the elements that are influencing consumer perceptions about what healthy food really is.

While in the past we may have referred to healthy food as ‘low in fat’ or ‘high in fibre’, it's no longer that simple. Consumers are smarter and Datamonitor expects single nutrient claims to all but disappear by 2020. We’re moving from a nutrient focus to one that is much broader in context.

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