Risk perception associated with COVID-19 may influence people's food purchase and consumption behaviors. When risks are almost unavoidable, people find comfort in living a healthier life and eating nutritious food.
Early in the pandemic, the World Health Organization issued nutritional guidelines recommending the consumption of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains to obtain adequate dietary fiber. Global studies have reported changes in fresh produce consumption in people’s diets during the pandemic; people’s fruit intake increased during the pandemic. In terms of the number of meals, studies report an increase in the number and frequency of meals people ate during the lockdown.
The change in people’s behavior when it comes to food intake is evident regardless of age — kids, teens, young professionals, and the elders.
This year, with optimistic signs of economic recovery in Vietnam post-COVID-19, digital and marketing agency Vero partnered with research firm Decision Lab to conduct research on the changes in lifestyle, especially in eating habits, of Vietnamese consumers since the pandemic.
The whitepaper, which captured the voices of 828 Gen Z & Gen Y consumers in major cities in Vietnam, is an opportunity for brands to see how the F&B and food service industries have changed and what consumers need from them post-pandemic, in the new normal. The study also revealed new trends in vitamin consumption and the difficulties consumers face in eating healthy.
COVID-19 is a wake-up call
Almost half of the respondents (46.3%) said they were interested in changing their eating habits and 43.4% revealed they had improved their knowledge of healthy food, data from Decision Lab.
“For many, the coronavirus pandemic has served as a wake-up call for people to recognize the importance of a strong immune system and adopt a healthy lifestyle and products,” reads the report.
Emma Pham, a nutritionist and an influencer, said that at the height of the global pandemic, people’s interest in eating and drinking for better health significantly grow. “Almost everyone was worried about getting sick or how to eat properly in order to recover quickly,” she said.
As an expert in nutrition, Emma took the opportunity and started posting content series on how to boost the immune system, what to eat and drink post-sickness, healing cooking and how to stay away from becoming ill.
Besides turning to social media content, Vietnamese consumers are also taking more supplements and vitamins. 46% mentioned taking vitamins or supplements as a popular health activity outside of healthy eating.
Millennials (50%) utilize supplements and vitamins more than Gen Z (43%). After all, Gen Y consumers may face more health problems than Gen Z, while having more disposable income to spend on vitamins than their younger counterparts.
While the benefits of healthy consumption are priceless not to mention the long-term positive effects, the thing about going healthy is it requires more money. Truth be told, healthy eating is expensive.
Per the report, 41% of consumers said "healthy food is expensive" and is a barrier to healthy living. This sensitivity to price is especially true for Millennials (46%) who cited price as a barrier to healthy eating. Only 37% of Gen Z shared the same concern.
Barriers to going healthy
High cost isn’t just the only reason why a healthier lifestyle is hard to keep up with. 45% of respondents said they lack time to cook and prepare healthy food. This should prompt F&B brands to make healthy food options more readily consumable.
Hoai Anh Pham, a strategy planner at Vero, said consumers are asking brands to be more transparent in how ingredients are sourced. “Brands should be upfront and honest in their labeling and the way they communicate with their audiences.”
Decision Lab and Vero’s report suggests brands may partner with nutritionists to use synergistic ingredient combinations to create dishes that enhance the bioavailability of nutrients. And of course, consider the cost it entails that will eventually be passed to their consumers.
Time and knowledge also track high in terms of barriers. Vietnamese consumers worry they don’t know how to cook healthy meals and more importantly they just don’t have the time to cook something healthy.
“Brands should focus on helping consumers understand that healthy options don’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time to produce a meal,” the report suggests.
In general, brands should strive to capitalize on healthy eating trends among consumers. The "specter" of the global pandemic has made health the top priority for young Vietnamese consumers. Healthy eating and vitamin consumption are key ways in which consumers can achieve good health.