Young people pay more for healthy food – but don’t trust food labels

By our News Team | 2022

As more consumers start to seek healthier lifestyles, healthy products are now entering mainstream outlets. Yet transparency is paramount.

South Africa’s Millennials and Gen Zs are prepared to pay a premium for health products; however, they are sceptical when it comes to health-food labels from brands that claim to be healthier alternatives.

This is according to a recent study by Red Fox Insight, the research division of full-service retail marketing agency, Red Fox Group.

The 18-44 age group reported having a fairly good knowledge of health and nutritional information, stating that they do not always believe what they read on packaging and in-store displays. Indeed, 11% reported that they find health labels outright dishonest.

Health-conscious Consumers

Photo by David Gomes from Pexels

In contrast, their older counterparts (aged 45+) claim to not know much about nutritional labels and buy what they can afford, whether it’s healthy or not. 

“Health foods and eco-friendly products are no longer hiding in an aisle at major pharmacies, or in standalone holistic stores,” says Marilu Smit, co-founder and Quantitative Research Director of Red Fox Insight.

Health products now part of the mainstream

“As more consumers start to seek healthier lifestyles, these products are now entering mainstream outlets, with the bigger retailers offering in-house health products. In this light, we can expect to see the growing number of health-conscious consumers demanding transparency when it comes to food labels and packaging.”

According to a 2021 EIT food report, the Gen Z population expects support from brands and the government on their health journey. They also want easier access to affordable healthier alternatives. EIT Food is a European initiative that works to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

“Just because the younger market is prepared to pay more for healthier products, that doesn’t always translate into actual behaviour, especially in a tougher economic climate,” says Smit. 

“Yes, they are seemingly more aware of what they are putting into their bodies, but brands and retailers are remiss if they think that clever marketing tactics are all that’s needed to win market share. We are living in the age of the internet where information is available to consumers at the click of a button.

The survey also showed that 47% of overall respondents claimed to have made an effort to learn more about healthy products, while 40% cited that they regularly read labels – with most paying the closest attention to nutritional information on dairy products, juices and beverages, tinned products, and processed foods. Of these, 14% claimed to often find pack labelling hard to understand or misleading.