British consumers are increasingly looking for convenient food and drinks which are also healthy, according to a report from analysts Datamonitor.

In 2004 the British consumer ate on-the-go 372 times but just 119 of these occasions were considered to be healthy. Even though the total number of on-the-go consumption occasions in the UK looks set to rise to 401 by 2009, choices in the UK are more governed by the proliferation of confectionery and savoury snacks which means consumers' healthy intentions are often jeopardized when eating away-from-home.

"Although health concerns are now similar in importance to both convenience and indulgence needs, numerous barriers exist to consuming healthily on-the-go. These range from the fact consumers find it difficult to locate healthy options in convenience outlets to the simple fact that healthier food and drinks are perceived to be too expensive," said Daniel Bone, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor, and author of the report. 

According to Datamonitor, the British are the biggest on-the-go consumers in Europe. In 2004 a typical British consumer ate on-the-go 372 times. This compares to an estimated 229 occasions for a typical German consumer in 2004 and 245 occasions for a typical French consumer.

In Europe there are currently more than 150 million consumers who are overweight or severely overweight.  Over 28 million are British. It is this, together with the wake of growing appearance and body-shape consciousness that has spurred consumers to seek out healthy convenient food and drinks on-the-go options from retail outlets.

In Datamonitor's view, there will be a further move from 'nutritionally curious' to 'nutritionally active' consumers whereby fad dieting and mis-informed dietary habits will give way to more nutritionally aware and sustained healthy eating habits. Indeed it is already apparent. In a Datamonitor consumer survey conducted in October 2004, 83% of Brits felt that it was 'important to improve health through diet'. In addition 62% also indicated they had actually taken active steps to improve health' in the 12 months previous.

There are a number of barriers which inhibit the growth of health on-the-go occasions the most significant of which is on the supply side; not being able to find healthy products in on-the-go locations such as convenient stores and petrol forecourts is the number one barrier preventing healthy behaviour. "Choices in the UK are more governed by the proliferation of confectionery and savoury snack products, for which Britain has the most developed market in Europe," said Bone.

Another important barrier identified in the report is the cost: consumers do not buy healthy products as often because they perceive that products sold as such are costlier than standard versions. "Overall, providing healthy on-the-go solutions is poorly developed. The convenience and health mega-trends can no longer be targeted in isolation," said Bone.

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