Good fat, bad fat

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How are consumers’ perceptions of fat and health changing?

As sugar is increasingly demonised in the media, fat is becoming more acceptable and the dominance of low-fat claims are losing their traction. Consumers are now talking more about “good fats” and the trend towards less processed foods reflects this. Where are the opportunities for meat and dairy producers here?

Attitudes to food and what constitutes a healthy diet are changing. Since the 1960s, the most orthodox health advice has been to eat a diet high in carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables, moderate in protein and low in fat.  Additionally, people should limit saturated fats from sources such as fatty meat and replace with oils from vegetable sources.

In more recent years, as health issues such as obesity and diabetes have become increasing problems in the West, there has been more of a societal focus on trying to limit sugar consumption. Since 2012, low sugar is now a bigger draw than low fat in terms of consumers’ priorities.

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In a damning report in 2016, the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration called for a major overhaul of current dietary guidelines, arguing that we should be looking for an avoidance of sugar-containing processed foods and return to eating whole foods such as meat, fish and dairy and including plenty of fats from sources such as avocadoes. 

While this viewpoint is still controversial, what is clear is that some of these messages are resonating with consumers, many of whom are reassessing their relationship with eating fat. Data from Gallup, published by Food Business News, showed that in the longer term (since 2002), consumers have moved from tending to actively avoid fat towards actively avoiding sugar.

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A switch to whole and natural unprocessed foods, alongside signs of a reduction in the fear of fat, can only be good news for producers of dairy and meat, who are poised to take advantage of these trends. We cannot overstate this- old habits die hard and many consumers still look to lower their fat consumption where they can. However, a trend towards more whole and natural foods such as meat and whole dairy incorporating necessary and taste-delivering fats may provide some counter-balance to people enthralled by the meat and dairy limiting flexitarian movement, who may find that vegetarian-friendly alternatives can be more highly processed.

To read more about trends in consumer perception of fat, click here.

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Susie Stannard, Senior Consumer Insight Analyst

Susie.stannard@ahdb.org.uk024 7647 8711