‘Every big umbrella brand is trying to follow the healthy eating topic’

The trend has slowed down but has not stopped: who buys healthy products and how to push them correctly

‘Every big umbrella brand is trying to follow the healthy eating topic’
Photo: realnoevremya.ru/Dinar Fatykhov

Despite a fall in the population’s purchasing power, sales in the market of healthy products grow year after year. This happens especially fast in online marketplaces where the target audience of this category grows rapidly. In an op-ed column of Realnoe Vremya, Marketing Department Director of Makheyev Trading House Inna Popova explains how this market is doing today, the prospects of superfoods, healthy products in Russia and why big brands that haven’t yet worked on the “healthy” shelf are trying to reach it.

“We care about you”

The trend for healthy eating is developing in Russia slower than in the West. But there is still some development, it had been growing well through 2022. There are two key types of players in the market: firstly, it is small (often local) producers who immediately focused on healthy products and superfoods. Secondly, it is industrial giants who are trying their hand and have been making ordinary foodstuffs for many years. For instance, let’s take us: the company was created in 1998 when there was no trend for healthy eating in general. During turbulent years, the consumer didn’t care about a healthy lifestyle and superfoods: it was important for many families to simply survive. The economy has been changing, we have been changing too, trying to keep up with trends for all these 25 years.

Our two products became a reply to the general healthy fashion. Sugar and starch-free ketchup was the first of them, moreover, we started to make it not even as a result of the start of the trend for a healthy lifestyle. Everything began with the need for diabetic nutrition so that people with diabetes could meet their needs for delicious and diverse food. It is quite a big group of consumers: according to the official statistics in 2021, 5.2 million people were diagnosed diabetes in Russia.

We taught consumers to choose this product through packaging, experimented with communication and design. For instance, we increased the selling element — the “0% sugar” inscription, created a special eco-friendly design that’s different from the main line of ketchups, added a QR code with a recipe.

The trend grew, the shelf with healthy products did too, and we also followed the trend. So a strawberry jam without sugar appeared in our line. Our opponents from large businesses chose the same direction, moreover, in different segments. For instance, our trademark focuses on sauces and pantry products, while one of the country’s biggest oil plant processors chose to develop soy meat. So every big umbrella brand is trying to follow healthy eating today. This enhances the image of a trademark. The main message every such producer transmits is “We care about you.” There is a dialogue with the consumer, there is contact, trust is built.

“Now the consumer is more economic”

Many new products used to enter the market before the coronacrisis, surveys by Nielsen showed a huge number of new products both in the FMCG in general and food category in particular. The consumer was interested in constantly trying something new, we discovered their moods for gourmet trends. Also, all borders opened, people could travel more and try new tastes and national cuisines and tried to create a special gastronomic atmosphere at home. Also, they were ready to vote for healthy products and superfoods with the ruble.

However, since last year, there has been a tendency for lower purchasing power, and the price becomes the determinant when choosing products. According to Nielsen, 89 out of 100 consumers choose a product according mainly to its price. Now a buyer is more rational, makes a choice in favour of conservative, classical tastes. They try to buy familiar, tested products. This means a producer runs the risk of not getting planned response by launching a new product.

In this regard, brands developing only healthy eating continue being active. They grow, develop because they have already taught the consumer to consume their product.

But it is also necessary to take into account that the generation of consumers updates, their priorities change. Even despite the economic turmoil, the demand for healthy food is going up, which means supply is increasing too. By the way, the target audience gets older too, it becomes more solvent, consequently, sales rise too. The competitive environment is growing, both new brands and new product types are entering the market — though this trend has seriously decelerated, we cannot say it has stopped.

Online or offline?

We clearly see in our products that healthy products are sold better in federal chain stores and at online marketplaces. Deliberately assigned shelves where, as a rule, big brands operating in the healthy food segment are represented develop in federal chains.

Time is one of the most valuable resources today. This is why people aim to make a purchase spending as little time as possible on this — this means they use online channels more than offline stores. This especially applies to the target audience from 19 to 29 years.

We have joined e-commerce just recently: the e-grocery segment is very young, in fact, it expanded widely only during the pandemic. It is very convenient to promote and sell healthy products electronically because there are a lot of instruments to shape impulse demand here. And the majority of the target audience is online (they either actively have it both — combine online and offline shopping). This is why if advertising campaigns are targeted correctly, the path to a purchase turns out to be short, almost instantaneous. Plus, the delivery speed changed, and it seriously increases the intensity of products leaving dark store warehouses.

To sell a product at online platforms, one cannot do without promotion. It requires investment — both financial and intellectual as well as time. Good targeting costs money, however, it permits nailing the audience accurately. Also, a lot of routine job needs to be done to design the context and cards. It must be clear from the beginning that a product is sugar-free, it is considered healthy. We support this process through different trade marketing mechanisms. We use cross promo with other products: for instance, we add our jam to a pick with cottage cheese of a no less strong brand and offer a joint discount.

The path to offline shopping is harder, more complicated — and smart category placement is very important here. But the consumer is here too, if everything is done correctly, people know what stand they should go to for the necessary product.

“Almost all sales channels support healthy eating now”

The category of people who care about what they it isn’t so small in Russia. They are on average 19-30 years old, the number of women and men is about fifty-fifty. There are entire chains dedicated to this theme — they develop both offline and online. Groceries of big chains have a shelf with healthy products — even those around the corner. So we can claim that almost all sales channels support healthy eating now.

As for forecasts, this is a very difficult issue. We see consumers’ possibilities are limited. Also, the range of products’ prime cost is changing: ingredients, logistics are becoming expensive. What will come next will depend on the situation in the world, in the country. External factors play a huge role in developing this trend. We have lately faced an experience that nobody has ever had. Due to objective reasons, the planning horizon has significantly decreased. Of course, we continue selling with discounts and create promos, but they have to turn into targeted, personalised offers. Real sales can be stimulated through this.

We can say for sure that it is hard to experiment now for a big producer who “taught” the consumer to use its products. It is easier to focus on those products consumers got used to. We see the consumer to have switched to classical, family tastes that suit everybody.

We develop healthy eating step by step and thanks to it we see a window of opportunities to reinforce the brand’s image. However, we can certainly say that there has appeared a competitive environment for healthy foods, demand has already been shaped. The target audience grows year after year as well as sales channels. There will always be supply where there is demand.

Inna Popova

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The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.