Making predictions is always a bit risky and unexpected events can throw one off course in a heartbeat, but given the events of the last year, I feel assured in forecasting that the cost of living will underpin and direct many of the trends that 2023 is likely to bring.
Personalised nutrition and technology
Awareness of who we are - own identity - continues to gather pace, and I see this in the world of nutrition more than ever. This is manifesting itself in the drive to market nutrition programmes and supplements based on individual needs and markers.
Whilst a consultation with a health professional is by nature personalised, recreating this experience online is a challenge.
For example, when it comes to supplements, online personalised nutrition is usually based around simple algorithms that direct consumers to a handful of outcomes and groups of supplements. I have seen under the bonnet of the programmes that underpin such offerings, and whilst there are multiple possible outcomes, the vast majority of users are often directed to just two solutions This has a basic feel of being personalised, but in truth is quite generic when compared to other technology-led offerings that I predict will become more popular in 2023.
The most significant of tech-led trends in nutrition is the Zoe programme, developed by Professor Tim Spector. It's part of a research project and personalised diet/nutrition programme that relies in part on glucose monitoring and a one off stool test, leading to dietary advice based on your own results, that show how you digest various foods groups and how you respond to fats, protein and carbs once they are digested.
You get to see how various foods affect your very own glucose levels, which enables the user to eat in a way that enhances how the individual feels, such as more energy, better cognitive function, and usually leads to weight loss as well. Over 40,000 have signed up so far, with more than 200,000 more waiting to be processed, and so it’ll become increasingly unremarkable to see the distinctive glucose monitoring disc attached to someone’s arm (resembling a security tag you might see attached to clothes in store).
Technology is at the heart of other offerings, such as Veri, that also offers glucose monitoring via an app, at a price, and also Lumen, that uses a vape-like instrument to measure elements in the breath that allow the tech to show how what you ate is being used as fuel.
These programmes aren’t cheap. Zoe is £259.99 for the tests and monthly fees ranging from £24.99 to £59.99 depending on the how long you sign up for. Veri starts at £145 a month and Lumen at £249 for a six months.
Despite this, I still predict a marked increase in sign ups, as these will be made attractive by the desire to spend money wisely on bespoke personalised offerings.
It's over a decade since the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) introduced Health and Nutrition Guidelines, which have been adopted by the UK since we left the EU.
Enforcing the rulings falls to Trading Standards, and to a lesser extent, the Advertising Standards Authority and despite some early teething problems, bogus health claims were manageable in number.
I fear this is no longer the case, as I see absurd health claims go unchallenged now. Perhaps the agencies tasked with enforcement are overwhelmed and lack the resources to respond in the way that they would have done just 5 years ago.
This lack of supervision may have allowed one of the daftest claims I saw in 2022, from a supplement brand claims that suggests that brain ‘doesn’t get 99% of the nutrients it needs’.
This is clearly absurd, not least because no context is set, but also because if it were true in any way, then it's odd that it takes a supplement brand, coincidentally selling a supplement for the brain, to communicate this alarming news, rather than a health authority.
Expect to see even more similarly baffling claims in 2023.
When budgets are tight, we may be tempted to go for own-brand versions of familiar products, as they have the reputation of representing value for money.
Which? the consumer group, tracked prices for own brand, premium and independent brand prices in 2022 and found that that on average, own brand products rose in price by 18%. Premium own brand prices rose by 13% whilst independent own brand rose by 12%.
One of the attractions of own-brand has always been price, but however good the replica products may be, if prices for both independent and own-brand become very similar, then the original brands are likely to fare better by offering authenticity as well as value.
There is a question as to whether own-brand versions have the same nutritional profile as the ‘originals’, but it's in the manufacturers interests to match the original as much as possible, and so ingredients are pretty much the same. After all, if you are buying a triangular chocolate bar, it has to taste and feel like it's famous original, or it won’t sell.
Fungi are having their moment in the sun, and so all things-mushroom are likely to enjoy the over-arching generalised health claims that are increasingly apparent. Typical claims range from improving cognitive function and energy to reducing the long term risk of dementia. Many of these claims are on the ‘on-hold’ list, which means that whilst the claims wait in line for the health authorities to authorise or reject them, said claims can be made.
That’s not to say that they stand up to scrutiny, but in the interim some brands are making the most of the leeway that the ‘on-hold’ list allows.
There are several varieties of fungi that I think will become more familiar in 2023, including Lions Mane, Chaga, Reishi and Tremella.
These are mostly to be found in supplement form (mushroom latte anyone?) but the focus on fungi is likely to trickle down to eating the more familiar mushrooms at home.
Of course, there will be other trends that pop up as the year progresses, such as an increased interest in canned foods, including legumes and fish, as well as functional drinks, be they with collagen or supplements aimed at enhancing mood and memory.