Blood sugar and hormones: emerging trends that home in on health

A quick glance at this year’s key food, nutrition and health trends could give the impression that little has changed. But, take a closer look, and a few interesting emerging trends soon appear. At New Nutrition Business, two in particular have caught our attention.

Julian Mellentin
Julian Mellentin Director and founder of New Nutrition Business
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Published: Feb. 07. 2024

Health has probably never been more important to people’s decisions about food. The emerging interest in blood sugar management and hormone health is also symptomatic of another movement we’ve seen for some years – the fragmentation mega-trend, where consumers seek out information online and act more in accordance with their personal needs and lifestyle preferences.

Within the food and beverage industry, it means manufacturers are increasingly facing a market of niches, where consumer target groups are getting smaller and more diverse. The key to success, then, is not to focus new product development on one high-ranking trend. It’s more about making the connection with multiple trends that appeal to as many diverse groups as possible.

So, even though emerging trends may seem small for the moment, they can add to a winning cocktail of connected trends, all blended in a single brand.

Food choices for better blood sugar
Blood sugar management is a ‘day one’ trend that is gaining momentum, and not just because of the global obesity epidemic, which is driving the meteoric rise in type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Largely thanks to high-profile influencers on social media, a group of health-forward consumers are thinking about how to reduce blood sugar spikes through their food choices. Some invest in the continuous blood glucose monitors now on the market, so they can closely follow their body’s response to the food they eat – relying on hard data as well as how their body feels.

Science has shown that better blood sugar benefits many aspects of health. From a food industry perspective, protein, fat, fibre and carb choices all have a role in supporting the slow energy release that helps keep blood sugar in balance. On that basis, blood sugar management is easily connected to eight of the trends on our top ten list. 

Breaking the taboo on hormone health
While better blood sugars benefit all, the emerging hormone health trend leans towards the 50% of the population who are women. Hormonal fluctuations around menstruation and menopause already drive a significant amount of food purchases. Today, as celebrity influencers and chat show hosts break down taboos, the hormonal imbalances that affect women are becoming more front of mind.

As mainstream medicine currently has little to offer in this regard, a marketplace is opening for food and dietary supplements that can help relieve the fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, bloating and many other symptoms that often accompany the female hormonal cycle.

The scientifically proven link between hormone health and better blood sugars means that some manufacturers are successfully connecting both in snack bars, for example. Dairy protein and fats are among the ingredients with a positive image in this space.

You should be able to find many more connections between the trends in our 2024 top ten list below. 

  1. Digestive wellness diversifies
    Messages such as ‘probiotic’ or ‘high fibre’ are no longer a point of difference on their own. Brands should combine digestive benefits with other motivators, such as more protein, less sugar or fibre for better blood sugar. The gut-brain connection, addressing mood and mind, is a big emergent opportunity.

  2. Carbs – better, fewer
    Consumers will welcome anything companies can do to add to the health halo of products and give consumers ‘permission to indulge’. The emergent better blood sugar trend is an opportunity for brands that use ‘better carbs’ and/or innovate with protein and fats. Weight and digestive wellness or simply ‘feeling better’ drive consumer choice. 

  3. Plants made convenient
    Most people are omnivores, and they want more convenient vegetables. Plant-based products with interesting flavours and textures will appeal to the many consumers who want new experiences. Botanicals are a steadily growing trend, combining a health halo with science-based benefits.

  4. Animal protein powers on
    Dairy and other animal protein producers are moving towards better sustainability, with messages such as ‘grass fed’ giving consumers permission to indulge. Particularly dairy businesses excel at reinventing traditional foods to deliver dairy’s nutritional benefits. 

  5. Plant protein
    Bakery and snack bars have done a good job of delivering plant protein in a tasty, convenient format. ‘Real’ nuts and legumes have a particularly healthy halo that people love. But long ingredient lists are a challenge in packaged foods. Meat and dairy substitutes will remain niche for the next five years.

  6. Emergent blood sugar friendly
    Social media influencers are spreading the word about the health benefits of managing blood sugar spikes for better metabolic, hormone and cognitive health. The recent keto and low-carb trends have primed many consumers to accept this message. 

  7. Rethinking fat
    Evolving science about fat and health continues to shift particularly saturated fat from pariah to a permissible part of the diet. Consumer acceptance of higher fat products is enabling blood-sugar friendly and metabolic health trends. 

  8. Mood & mind
    New ways are emerging to deliver on this area of high consumer interest. Some probiotic products, for example, have found how to connect digestive wellness, stress and sleep. Emerging science is linking mood & mind, metabolism, blood sugar management and weight wellness.

  9. Emergent hormonal health
    Influencers are putting more attention on women’s hormonal health issues, bringing strategies for managing hormonal challenges into the spotlight and validating women’s experiences. Powders, supplements and a handful of snack bar brands have been quick to recognise this developing need.

  10. Real foods and the UPF challenge
    The pendulum of consumer interest appears to be swinging back towards more ‘real’ foods with fewer ingredients and less processing. Ultra-processed foods (UPF) are increasingly about avoidance, with health-active consumers rejecting categories such as meat substitutes.

This blog contains material and information intended for B2B customers, suppliers and distributors, and is not intended as information to the final consumers.