A comprehensive new report from the Henley Centre predicts a growing demand for healthier ready meals. Consumers are no longer happy to continuously sacrifice nutrition for the sake of speed – they want to have their cake and eat it.

A Taste of the 21st Century identifies significant trends in the way we live today and creates a ‘snapshot’ of the way we may live and eat in 2020. Modern lifestyles are increasingly time pressured, but the consumer is now more aware of the impact on their health of what they eat.

The challenge for manufacturer and retailers is to meet these demands. The report looks at the growing functional food market and the role it can play in providing convenient food with a health benefit. Consumers’ lives have changed dramatically, even in the last five years. As a result, what we eat, why we eat, when and where we eat it are all factors which have changed dramatically and will continue to do so.

Growing time pressure is the key influence on the way we live, with direct impact on our leisure time, meaning we are increasingly more likely to buy our way out of things we consider to be ‘time robbers’, like cooking and shopping. There will be a major boom in remote shopping in the food market – removing the burden of going to the supermarket and allowing us to look for the best deal and find unusual or non-local products.

Consumer trust in national institutions on health and nutrition issues will continue to decline, with people looking to alternative sources for advice on healthy eating. Food retailers, for example, may start to become more involved in offering health advice through in-store gene-scanning and nutrition clinics, along the lines of on-site pharmacies and dentists we already see today. And word of mouth on health may become increasingly powerful, especially in light of food scares and an increased personal responsibility for health. The growth of health-related internet sites demonstrates the beginning of this trend.

New developments in food also have implications for how we regard healthcare and fitness. Life insurance and pension premiums may become linked to our diet, and we as consumers will be forced to develop a greater personal understanding of diet and nutrition.

However, every individual’s reaction to these changes will be different. Individuals cannot be typecast by their diet, and the increasing trend of divergence and crossover between food groups will continue in the future. Different people, searching for different types of health, will have different demands.