Consumers’ Growing Appetite for Superfoods

Bentonite Clay is not generally something which you would associate with food, yet this type of soil is one of the new items hitting our supermarket shelves. Hailing from the volcanos of France and Italy, this ancient health remedy is predicted to be one of the next big ‘superfoods’. Whether mixed into a smoothie or sprinkled on your cereal, this wonder product promises to cure you of bloating and detoxify the whole body. But is it really that super, or is this just super marketing at play?

For the past decade or so superfoods have been growing in popularity. They are no longer found solely in health food shops, but are now commonly located in your local supermarket aisles. They are popping up as ingredients in a range of products, such as baked goods, store brought products, cook books and cosmetics, and you’d be hard pressed to find a hipster café or juice bar which didn’t feature the latest superfood powerhouse, whether it be kale, acai berries or chia seeds.

Marketers are driving the popularity of superfoods and targeting the quick-fix obsessed society that we now live in. Consumers are buying into the notion that if a food has the word ‘super’ in it, then it must be healthy.  Consumer Markets Analyst, Michael Hughes, states that superfoods ‘now have a ‘health-halo’ which significantly influences consumer preferences’.

Consumers are motivated by the underlying premise that superfoods will make you healthier, have more energy and even live longer. While some superfoods claim to aid in weight loss, such as grapefruit and green tea, others, like chlorophyll and hemp seeds, are said to turn back the hands of time and slow the ageing process. Now that really is super!

The exotic-ness of many superfoods is also a draw factor. Many superfoods originated in far off, remote areas of the globe and have been used by locals for hundreds of years. This gives the product a certain sex appeal and consumers are willing to fork out money for what they believe is a magical, mysterious product, all the way from the Amazon.

It seems that new superfoods are being ‘discovered’ by big businesses every year and clever marketing is pushing them out to the eager consumer. Popularity for these foods is further driven by their presence in social media, health blogs, and television reports (think The Project and The Doctors), and through celebrity endorsements. Superfoods are a cultural trend in current society and it seems that the public can’t get enough of them.

While some superfoods do live up to their hype and make a valuable contribution to a healthy diet, consumers must be cautious about the miracle claims made by some companies. In fact, there is little evidence to back some of the wild assertions made about certain superfoods, with dietitians even deeming some to be unhealthy. Coconut oil, for example, is in the height of its popularity, yet it is still known to be high in saturated fat, while Lion Brewery have even made claims that their low carb beer is a superfood!

Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, claims that the growth in the market ‘has nothing to do with health and everything to do with marketing’. The term ‘superfood’ has not been scientifically approved and there are no legal labelling regulations. As a result, more and more companies are jumping on the superfood bandwagon and using the term in their branding and advertising, such as Uncle Toby’s Oats.

It seems that the popularity of superfoods will continue for some time yet. Each year new miracle foods are entering the market and capturing the attention of the unsuspecting public. So what will be the next superfood to hit our supermarket shelves? Only time will tell. But consumers be wary—it just may not be as super as it seems.

Written by Sarah Williams (slessels81): 211235102

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