Pioneering brands test the waters of new blood sugar trend

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An AI-designed protein bar from Jeff Bezos-funded NotCo and a sparkling drink from the founders of Oatly are among the first products testing the waters of the emergent ‘blood sugar-friendly’ trend.

Flagged up by consultancy New Nutrition Business in its influential 10 Key Trends 2024 report, the early-days trend is already capturing consumers’ attention, and brands targeting healthier blood sugar as one of their lead benefits are emerging.

Promising to “avoid the sugar crash”, NotCo’s snack bar uses plant proteins and Palatinose™, a sugar substitute which helps regulate blood glucose levels. Good Idea sparkling mealtime drink, created by the inventors of Oatly oat drink, offers “balanced blood sugar, backed by science” and can cut post-meal blood sugar spikes up to 20-30% thanks to its amino acid blend and the essential mineral chromium picolinate. Good Idea explains that these “work together for your metabolism which helps to reduce your blood sugar after meals and provide you more stable energy”.

“Managing blood glucose levels has long been an area of interest for health active consumers,” says Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business. “While people have tended to think of managing blood glucose for diabetes, that is beginning to change, driven by the consumer, by the power of social media and by emerging science.”

In a survey of five countries by New Nutrition Business, 21% of consumers said they were trying to eat to manage their blood sugar.

Adding to the trend’s potential is its connection to many of the other powerful consumer growth trends highlighted in 10 Key Trends 2024, including more protein, more fibre, increasing acceptance of more fat, a desire for ‘real foods’, better & fewer carbohydrates, mood & mind and weight wellness.

“Health-forward consumers are now beginning to look at blood glucose in relation to multiple health benefits, including weight wellness, better metabolic health, hormonal health and even better mood and mind,” says Mellentin.

Social media influencers are educating consumers about the emerging science and raising the profile of the multiple health benefits that can follow on from managing a healthy level of blood sugar. These influencers are often people who are credible and have a scientific background. One of the most influential is the Glucose Goddess, real name Jessie Inchauspé, a biochemist and author specialised in blood glucose management who has 2.9 million followers on Instagram.

“In a reverse of the situation 15 years ago, social media influencers today create the focus on an aspect of health and the mainstream media falls in behind them,” says Mellentin. “Social media is where younger consumers go first to get information about food, nutrition and

health. For 75% of consumers under the age of 40 it is their first and usually only destination. For them, social media has already replaced mainstream media.”

“The number of people thinking about blood glucose and health will increase over the next few years, thanks to the powerful confluence of emerging science and the power of social media,” predicts Mellentin. “This change is at Day 1, but the direction of travel is visible and clear.”

Categories that are well-placed to respond to rising consumer interest in healthy blood sugar include:

Dairy: A healthier blood glucose response is dairy's inbuilt competitive advantage over plant-based dairy alternatives.

Proteins of all kinds: Animal protein causes an almost zero glucose response and this is an opportunity for anything containing dairy protein, meat snacks, eggs and any packaged food that can use animal protein.

Snacks and bars: A product intelligently formulated with well-chosen ingredients such as fats, nuts and even carefully-selected fruits and carbohydrates. This is the strategy used by the products now on the market.

Grain categories: This is a major opportunity for NPD, to choose ‘better’ grains, to add more fibre, or to use fibres which give a better blood sugar response.