British consumers are unhappier, unhealthier and less concerned with appearance, finds Kantar Media

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Health, appearance and happiness have all taken a significant knock amongst British consumers since the economic downturn started in 2008, leading to profound behavioural changes in the relationship between consumers and food.
In-depth consumer behaviour and attitudinal insights from Kantar Media’s TGI study reveal the challenge this presents to brands involved in health and nutrition, with key findings including:
  • Health: the proportion of adults who consider their diet to be very healthy has fallen from 41% in 2009 to 36% today, as consumers sought some sense of comfort and reward in more indulgent but less healthy foods as the recession bit
  • Appearance: consumers have also become less fussy about their appearance, with the proportion claiming to look after the way they look falling from 62% in 2009 to 54% today
  • Happiness: in 2009, 58% of adults were happy with their standard of living, but this has tumbled to 49% today. Similarly, the proportion of adults who say they are happy with their life as it is has fallen from 63% in 2009 to 57% today
Amongst the food-related behavioural changes engendered by these attitudinal shifts are a decline in buying premium quality products, shrinking inclination to purchase organic and fair trade and a rise in price consciousness. Such behaviour is neatly summarised by TGI’s figures that reveal in 2009 48% of adults said they spent a lot of money on food in their home, compared to 41% today. 
 
TGI’s insights reveal a strong correlation between unhealthy food consumption and consumer unhappiness, with income only playing a small part in driving a healthy diet. Moreover, this connection between unhappiness and unhealthy diet is purely British. In Spain – a country that has suffered more financial hardship in recent years than many of its European counterparts – the proportion of adults who say they are happy with their standard of living has remained unchanged over the past five years. In Great Britain this figure has fallen from 57% to 47% over the same period. The difference between the two is that in Spain there has been no prominent swing towards eating unhealthily as there has been in Britain.
 
Anne Benoist, director, Kantar Media TGI, said: “The consequence of this declining happiness amongst British consumers and its link to healthy eating is that interest in the likes of organic and fair trade food will be unlikely to pick up again until the economic recovery not only improves consumers’ quality of life, but also ultimately delivers higher levels of happiness.  
 
“The fast food industry has, to a certain extent, repositioned itself during the downturn so that it is no longer so synonymous with junk food. Many fast food brands and restaurants have cannily promoted their healthy credentials, whilst on-the-go outlets that claim to eschew junk food have popped up on the high street. This has helped consumers feel less guilty about what they eat. The healthy food industry needs to undertake a similar re-positioning so that eating healthily is no longer equated with unhappiness in consumers’ minds.”