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How brands are adapting to consumers’ healthier lifestyles

Monday 19th February

It’s the start of 2018 – have you made any New Year resolutions? I certainly have: become healthier and look after my body better.

This is something I can struggle with particularly as I sit for the majority of each day in front of a computer. On top of that, I’ve found working in Media can make it hard to be ‘good’ as there are frequently tempting treats circulating around the office and habitual trips to the pub for a ‘cheeky’ pint (often ending in a shameful visit to McDonald’s)! Media is renowned for being a boozy and indulgent industry; back in the day, deals would be regularly made down the pub and the confidence-boosting liquid was a staple in networking.

However, when I look back particularly on the last year, I’ve noticed changes all around me that are helping aid in a healthier lifestyle. The desire for alcohol and bad food has begun decreasing slightly, not only from within our agency but from Media Owners too! 2017 saw jollies focussing more on sport, activities and pampering rather than just booze, food, and more booze. Personally I’ve thoroughly enjoyed trying out Barry’s Boot Camp (kind of…!),  Boxing and even Axe Throwing! With sports classes, tasty protein shakes are offered after rather than a large glass of white wine and baked Camembert. Something our livers, and hips, are very grateful for…

At Total Media, our welfare is looked after by The Wellness Team. They provide healthy treats and send informative emails about going vegan, the benefits of turmeric, different types of hummus and the pros of using vegetables in baking. These healthy options remind us to make healthy choices and turn our attention away from the 3pm-slump sugary snacks.

I’ve noticed this change in ‘healthy living’ being a wider trend than in just our industry, for instance The Guardian reported that “25% of under 25’s are tee-total” and “the number of full-time vegans in the UK has grown fourfold in the past 10 years”. The rise in health conscious YouTube vloggers, Instagram foodies, and Netflix documentaries demonstrate just how large the appetite is for a healthier way of life. With this change in attitude, FMCG brands need to get ahead of the curve and alter the way they advertise and the message they’re giving, and potentially the products they sell. Otherwise they will fall victim to lower sales.


In 2017 there were reports about alcohol consumption going down, for example The Grocer reported 41% of people trying to curb their alcohol intake compared to 33% in 2016. Interestingly, however, sales volumes increased slightly as it appeared people were starting to buy more expensive ‘better quality’ brands, particularly for home use where they are choosing to entertain more. They are therefore still thinking about their bodies despite continuing to indulge.

Pubs and restaurants are also having to accommodate, particularly during the Dry January period that’s becoming increasingly more popular year on year (along with Veganuary). Charlie McVeigh, owner of the Draft House pub chain, has recognised the rise in customers drinking less alcoholic beverages, and that in order to keep sales up he’s had to adapt.  Therefore low and no-alcohol craft beers like Brewdog Nanny State, Big Drop Stout and Nirvana were created. “Historically we haven’t been that great at stocking non-alcoholic drinks but we now really focus on it. We had a record January [2017].”

 Even when reading an online article about alcohol consumption I got served a Heineken alcohol-free lager ad!

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk

Cadbury’s have changed their Dairy Milk brand positioning from ‘Free the Joy’ (launched in 2012) to one focussing on kindness and generosity. After noticing a decrease in sales particularly within the last year, (perhaps the Kraft buy-out in 2010 was an initial catalyst), a new brand message was necessary to revamp the product.  IRI data shows that 2017 saw the largest UK chocolate brands lose £78m in value sales due to consumers moving away from sugary treats. I find this new brand message a clever one: it supports people’s decisions to live healthier but at the same time promotes keeping sales up by branding the bars as excellent gifts!


Irn-Bru have just released a ‘healthier’ version of the soft drink with over 50% less sugar. Whilst fans are scared the drink won’t taste as good, the company are trying to reassure them they won’t know the difference. An AG Barr spokesman said, “The vast majority of our drinkers want to consume less sugar so that’s what we’re now offering”.


So many negative reports over the years have changed consumer’s perceptions of McDonald’s from an innovative, quick and fun restaurant chain to an unhealthy, greasy, ‘fast-food’ joint. Recognising this and the increased demand for healthier options, McDonald’s have introduced positive changes to their food over the past few years. The following are some changes made:


  • Swapping 100% juice drinks in kids’ meals with a product containing 42% less juice, therefore half the sugar. Also giving them the option of milk rather than fizzy drinks

  • Serving chicken that is now without artificial preservatives or antibiotics

  • Introducing apple slices, salads and low-fat yoghurt

  • Replacing margarine with real butter in Egg McMuffins

  • Adding kale and spinach to the iceberg lettuce in salads

  • Replacing the high fructose corn syrup found in McDonald’s sandwich buns with sugar

  • In December 2017 they launched a vegan burger in Sweden and Finland

“This is part of a commitment by McDonald’s to raise the bar on our food. We are committed to continuing our food journey for the benefit of our guests” said a McDonald’s spokeswomen. Whilst McDonald’s (I’m sure) will always remain a ‘naughty’ treat (usually after a night out), it’s great to know that there are other ‘not-so-naughty’ options available.

In summary, people are getting healthier and this trend is likely to continue particularly as brands are realising they must aid the movement in order to keep their businesses profitable. The biggest brands have been embracing the change, even if (or especially if) their core product offering hasn’t been inherently healthy. However all brands, large and small, must start thinking about how this impacts their customers and that they should consequently change the way they communicate and advertise or risk being left behind by a newly health conscious generation.

Article Written by

Amy Rakowski

Digital Display Account Manager, Total Media

Our resident baker here at Total Media, Amy is a Digital Display Manager with over 3 years experience of media planning and buying. As well as displaying her awesome prowess for baking, Amy is also an avid film fan.

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