The days when smoking and eating fast foods were the cool things for teenagers to do is a thing of the past. It looks as if today’s young people value their health and wellbeing, and increasingly choose healthy nibbles such as smoothies or fruit bars.

The Health Products Association of SA (HPASA) says millennials — the group of people reaching adulthood in the 21st century — are choosing hyperfunctional foods, which combine health-giving natural ingredients with added vitamins and proteins.

Andrea du Plessis, nutritional expert at Vital Health Foods, says: "Nutritious snack foods are playing an increasingly crucial role in our daily lives, as we no longer have the time to have three balanced meals a day, and rely on snacking for much of our nutritional intake."

This has implications for retailers, who now have to rethink their product lines to cater for this trend.

HPASA, the voice for the health products industry, says instant gratification is now the new normal, so it comes as no surprise that snacks made from natural ingredients, with added vitamins but no added sugars or preservatives, are becoming increasingly popular.

Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

HPASA president Bruce Dennison says: "We’re seeing more and more how consumers are leaning on their diets, and not on pharmaceuticals, to prevent disease and optimise their health."

Lesley Scott, nutritionist at health restaurant chain Kauai, agrees. She says the restaurant industry has awakened to the fact that it needs to cater for young customers "with more nutritious meals, better portion sizes and the same options that adults are given to switch ingredients to deal with allergies and intolerances".

Scott says people are taking to clean eating — choosing foods in their most natural form — and are opting for unrefined grains, healthy proteins and fats, and avoiding overly processed foods and added sugars.

Woolworths introduced certified organic products in 1999.

A spokesman says the range of organic products has grown through the years in response to customer demand to include snacks, yoghurts, cheese, dried pasta and wines.

The company’s organic snacks consist of a variety of cashews and pistachios, rice cakes, kale chips and even chocolate.

The Next Forecast, an international industry insight report produced in the US, says that, based on a consumer study that was conducted by the New Hope Network in 2016, millennials are more than 50% more likely than baby boomers — those born in the years after World War 2 — to shop for natural foods, and that they trust supplements a lot more.

We’re seeing more
and more how consumers are leaning on their diets, and not on pharmaceuticals, to prevent disease and optimise their health
Bruce Dennison

The SA gym industry generates revenue of about US$900m/year, among the highest globally, and millennials make up a significant portion of that membership. For teens, gym membership can cost anything between R60 and R360/month.

Research by a global alliance
of health experts comparing 38 countries across the world points to SA as one of the best-performing countries for physical activity in 2016, UK publication The Daily Telegraph reported last year.

But retailers will need to stay on the ball as consumers change their eating habits.

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