MIL-OSI Banking: Ultra-processed foods debate spurs brand reevaluation of health perception, says GlobalData

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Source: GlobalData

The debate surrounding ultra-processed foods (UPFs) centers on their actual effects and whether they align with optimal dietary practices. However, completely abstaining from UPFs poses a challenge as they are widely available and dominant in various economies. Certain categories, like bread and fortified products, offer essential nutrients. Brands marketing these items must now navigate the task of ethically promoting UPFs that offer legitimate health advantages, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Hannah Cleland, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Given the pervasive nature of UPFs, the most logical approach for brands tackling the UPF issue is to prioritize certain categories. One of the biggest areas for reformulation and repositioning will be plant-based alternatives.”

A recent GlobalData survey* across major markets revealed that in terms of the amount of processed food eaten in plant-based meat and seafood and plant-based dairy, 46% and 45% of consumers, respectively, were extremely/ quite concerned.

Currently, the future of plant-based is in limbo as after a meteoric success, post-COVID-19 pandemic consumers are challenging the notion that these alternatives are genuinely healthier.

Cleland explains: “To overcome their tarnished ultra-processed image while still delivering sensory enjoyment and price, brands will have to invest in food technology.”

For instance, companies such as NotCo use AI algorithms to find optimal ingredient combinations. Across categories, brands are also having to invest in food tech innovation to give additives a clean label glow, developing plant-based ingredients such as citrus fiber and rice that are much more attractive to the consumers than chemical-sounding preservatives and stabilizers.

Cleland concludes: “Amidst the uncertainty around UPFs, brands should look at consumer mindsets category by category to assess what actions need to be taken. A complex understanding of category and consumer sentiment nuances will allow companies to leverage food technology in the most effective way.”

*GlobalData 2024 Hot Topics Survey – published in February 2024, sample size – 6,800 covering Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, the UAE, the UK and the US.

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