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Shift Away From Ultra-Processed Foods Likely To Take Some Time: Circana

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Shift Away From Ultra-Processed Foods Likely To Take Some Time: Circana

The consumer shift away from so-called ‘ultra-processed foods’ (UPFs) is likely to take some time, due to consumer confusion surrounding the category, according to Circana.

According to sales data for Europe’s six largest markets – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK – there has been ‘no notable decline’ in demand for UPFs over the past year, however, some consumers are reducing their purchases in certain categories due to affordability concerns, Circana noted.

For example, confectionery saw a 2.2% decrease in volume sales last year, while ready-to-eat meal sales declined by 22.4 million units.

“While there’s no significant indication that demand is declining in UPFs, compared to the total FMCG market, manufacturers should evaluate their product portfolios to align with shifting consumer preferences towards healthier options,” commented Ananda Roy, senior vice-president of growth insights for EMEA at Circana.

BMJ Findings

Circana was responding to findings published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) last week, which claimed that UPFs – including cereals, fizzy drinks, ready meals, protein bars and fast food – have been directly linked to more than 30 harmful health outcomes.

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At the same time, however, awareness about UPFs is ‘still developing’, Circana noted, with consumers finding it difficult to distinguish between varying levels of food processing. Rather, purchase decisions around UPFs tend to be influenced more by pricing and health concerns, instead of the content of said foods.

‘Rebalancing Formulations’

“Rebalancing formulations and recipes are crucial as consumer awareness grows,” Roy added. “Some countries, like France, are already witnessing a decline in ready-to-eat food consumption due to affordability concerns. With rising awareness, scrutiny on ‘healthier’ claims, particularly for plant-based foods, is inevitable.

“Affordability remains a global issue, urging retailers to prioritise accessible pricing. However, raw and minimally processed foods face challenges with wastage and shelf life. Educating consumers is key.”

Read More: Majority Of Europeans Consider Ultra-Processed Foods Unhealthy, Study Finds

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