Two out of three Americans are paying extra attention to the ingredients in the food and beverage products they consume, according to new research from Nielsen. In the United States, volume sales of gluten- and grain-free products increased 75.7% and 9.5%, respectively, and sales of products with a nut-free claim grew 15.2% in the past year. Meanwhile, lactose-free and reduced-lactose products climbed 4.8%.

But among global consumers with a food sensitivity or following a special diet, fewer than half believe current product offerings are meeting their needs, Nielsen said.

“Consumers want to eat in ways that address real dietary concerns, but they can’t do it alone,” says Andrew Mandzy, director of strategic insights at Nielsen.

Driving the trend toward specialized diets is an increase in food sensitivities, with 36% of global survey respondents indicating they or someone in their household have a food allergy or intolerance. Another factor is regional dietary preferences; for example, North American consumers are more likely to avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium, while consumers in Asia-Pacific are more inclined to follow a vegetarian diet, Nielsen said.

In its report, Nielsen offered four takeaways to remember when navigating the health and wellness landscape:

1) Keep it simple. 

2) Innovate. New product development remains a critical strategy and may include creating a new version of a traditional favorite with alternative ingredients or developing products with an entirely new taste experience.

3) Prioritize convenience, cost and taste. Look for ways to help busy consumers make healthier choices without sacrifice.

4) Don’t forget indulgence. Consumers still seek indulgent options, but they want to feel good about what they eat.

“While many consumers are taking steps to opt for better-for-you food choices, they still want to treat themselves,” Mr. Mandzy says.

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