Sensory scientists at MMR Research Worldwide will share findings on how to put the focus on healthy food and drink in a free broadcast next week
Worried woman with mask groceries shopping in supermarket looking at empty wallet.Not enough money to buy food.Covid-19 quarantine lockdown

Sensory science experts from MMR Research Worldwide have been evaluating dietary products in the functional food and drink marketplace to understand if enough is being done via sensory cues to reassure the consumer of the product’s benefit at the moment of consumption.

MMR, a consumer research company with a global footprint, said the findings will be shared with the public in a free broadcast scheduled on Monday 8 June.

“People are ready to embrace dietary solutions to address wellness issues, such as sleep, anxiety and mental focus, all of which are incredibly important right now”, said Andrew Wardlaw, MMR chief ideas officer.

Newly released data commissioned by MMR with consumer insights specialist Toluna, indicated that 39% of consumers in the US would consider food and drink products with benefits to address sleep issues. 

“The mental health and well-being of whole societies have been severely impacted by [Covid-19] crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently”

Devora Kestel, WHO Mental Health Department

The sentiment was only marginally behind immunity (43%), which demonstrates how well-being is now as much about mental health as it is about physical health.

Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organisation Mental Health department, said in May that “the mental health and well-being of whole societies have been severely impacted by [Covid-19] crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently”.

Sensory cues for health benefits

The MMR-Toluna data show that a third of the consumers surveyed are willing to trial food and beverage products to address anxiety issues, and 31% for improving mental focus. The figures on par with gut health, which has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years.

For Wardlaw, this really is the start of the next phase in functional foods, with the current pandemic accelerating demand for products that support our mental health needs in testing times.

A recent study by Accenture across 15 countries found that two-thirds of the world’s population were anxious about their health, and two-thirds are anxious about personal financial security. 

The study also revealed that 90% are worried about the economy. “With the narrative moving towards the economy, anxiety is not going to reduce anytime soon,” commented Wardlaw. 

“Consumers are clearly telling us that they are ready to consider functional foods to support mental health”

Andrew Wardlaw, MMR chief ideas officer

Wardlaw believes the current global situation gives food and drink manufactures a unique innovation opportunity to harness sensory cues to engage consumers with their products.

“Consumers are clearly telling us that they are ready to consider functional foods to support mental health, but we believe that ‘winning products’ will go further than liking alone. They will unlock sensory power across pack and product configuration to deliver higher credibility. Developers have to ask themselves: have I done enough to ensure to help consumers really believe?.”

The broadcast, at 11.00 ET on Monday, is open to marketing, insight and R&D professionals, and is designed to kick-start creative and commercial thinking.

“With economic challenges ahead, this is a real opportunity to innovate in what will most likely be a recession-proof demand space” Wardlaw concluded.

Date published: 5 June 2020

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