health smoothie

Increasingly, there is recognition that a nutritious, balanced diet doesn’t just affect physical health. It also plays a crucial role in energy levels, mood and even the health of gut microbiota, which in turn influences mental wellbeing.

This is a significant opportunity. In the UK, poor mental health costs the economy £102bn, while in the US it amounts to $193.2bn. Globally, the economic burden reaches a staggering $1tn.

So not only it is important to address the link between diet and mental wellbeing from a societal point of view, it could attract new business too.

Gen Z appeal

Recognising the connection between diet and mental health is crucial for food and drink manufacturers aiming to attract gen Z consumers, in particular.

Mental health among gen Z is a significant topic that is influenced by various factors. This generation faces a distinct and growing list of stressors, from academic demands and financial instability to social media comparisons and global concerns like climate change, all of which profoundly affect their mental wellbeing.

According to an American Psychological Association report, gen Z is more likely to report mental health concerns than any other demographic group. They actively champion mental health awareness and destigmatisation, fostering a culture that prioritises and encourages mental wellbeing.

Being digital natives, gen Z has been raised in a world saturated with social media and technology

While these platforms provide avenues for connectivity and self-expression, they also expose gen Z to cyberbullying, online harassment and unattainable beauty ideals, all of which compound mental health issues.

Health-conscious choices with transparency

To align their products with the preferences of gen Z consumers, manufacturers must understand what they want. 

Gen Z prefers health-conscious choices, often favouring products with ingredients known to positively impact mood, cognition, and overall mental health. 

Our 2024 State of Healthy Eating and Wellbeing Report highlights that gen Z actively seeks out functional foods that offer specific health benefits. According to the report, 61% of individuals consume functional foods to enhance mental wellbeing, 73% to boost energy levels, and 40% to promote better sleep.

By developing mental health-boosting products rich in vitamins, minerals, and made from natural, whole ingredients while avoiding artificial additives, colours and preservatives, manufacturers can appeal to gen Z.

But it’s important to communicate this effectively. This demographic is highly attuned to authenticity, transparency and honesty – which food and drink manufacturers can uphold through several avenues. 

This includes clearly labelling packaging with details about mental health benefits, offering educational content on their social media platforms on the mental health advantages of ingredients in their products, and seeking endorsements from mental health organisations to validate these benefits. 

By acknowledging the influence of diet on mental health, and the concerns of gen Z, manufacturers can unlock a new opportunity. It’s one that could be crucial in enabling brands to attract, engage and retain the next generation.