If anything, the pandemic has taught us the importance of our own health and wellness. But, how has this translated to how we eat, what we value and what we purchase? I sat down with Sarah Ludmer, Senior Director of Wellbeing & Regulatory at Kellogg to get her take on the situation.

Image courtesy of Noom

How has consumers' perception of nutritional health & wellness changed during COVID?

COVID has made many people realize the importance of getting ahead of your overall health, not only to avoid traditional diseases like heart disease and diabetes, but now also to strengthen your immune system. Additionally, consumers are now understanding the importance of emotional wellbeing, from depression to anxiety to the need to have a purpose in life.  Consumers are starting to make decisions about their health that avoid deprivation and put more focus on positive behaviors and eating patterns they can enjoy.  

We are seeing this in the rise of weight management programs like Noom and Weight Watchers that allow the consumer to make choices that make sense for them, instead of the “Eat This, Not That” attitude.   Even health and wellness books are now taking this focus as a recent one was titled “From burnout to balance,” indicating that people are tired and want to find true overall wellbeing.


What consumer insights about Health and Wellness most surprise you?  

I wouldn’t say this surprises me, but it is interesting.  While you can pull thousands of consumer insights showing that consumers state they want to eat better, support sustainability or avoid “processed” foods, behavior doesn’t necessarily follow.  According to Nielsen data, growth in grocery has been largely driven by beverage, salty snacks and candy categories.  While beverages have begun to shift their overall nutritional profile from traditional sodas to flavored waters, they have a larger plastic footprint.  Salty snacks and candy are also not necessarily where you think growth would be if consumers are trying to eat better.   Consumer behavior has not caught up to their opinions and desires.  This may be for a variety of reasons, including cost. It is important for businesses to understand this as it can drive innovation.

Additionally, brands need to stay true to who they are for the consumer. Nobody expects indulgent brands to suddenly become healthy…yet they may still expect the packaging to be sustainable or have a long-term purpose platform.  Brands need to ensure they know who they are as it relates to overall health and wellness, including sustainability, and stay true to that for consumers to have trust in them.  The brands that can deliver this trust while still being affordable, convenient, and delicious will have the most success.  

Bowl of cereal with blueberries

Looking broadly at the growth of health and wellness, where do you see the most opportunity to innovate? 

The opportunities are in several places.  Close in, I think the role of technology and digital marketing can help consumers actually change behavior and create positive eating patterns or balance.  From watches to weight management apps to soda machines that have over 45 choices, these tools help make the behavior change easier for consumers.  

Additionally, technology and digital marketing can also help consumers look beyond an individual food choice to their overall meal pattern.  It can help track intakes and build out an overall meal that enables them to see how a single food contributes to their overall diet (not just a point in the day) which is more aligned to how we eat.  For example, often traditional foods like cereal or pasta are demonized when looked at as an individual food.  In reality, per Produce for Better Health, cereal is the leading food that fruit is added to. Yet most cereal eaters don’t think about that behavior.

We also know traditional ethnic dishes that include pasta or rice as bases can create affordable and delicious ways to eat more vegetables and lean protein.  Meeting consumers where they are with alternative ideas on building better meals with food they already love could enable growth by creating a new, achievable behavior.  This also enables businesses to link to different cultures and create connections with new diverse consumers.  These approaches are key and can come to life at retail and through product innovation.


A longer-term opportunity is to innovate foods that address critical jobs to be done for the consumer, while creating equity and trust inline with brand values. We know that cost and taste are the main job that needs to be addressed regardless of whether it is better for you or not.  You can make a super great tasting “better for you” food but if it costs too much, you will miss a significant part of the population.  

Image courtesy of Today Show

What is your favorite emerging health and wellness category? 

I think my favorite emerging health and wellness category is within alcohol.  The shift over the past 3 years to seltzers and canned vodka drinks is astonishing.  New launches of “tonic” that have herbs and other oils to energize you instead of making you feel “hung over” the next day is making it easier for consumers to eliminate or limit alcohol consumption.  What I think is interesting is that alcohol is starting to help solve for both the physical aspects and emotional aspects of wellbeing at the same time, which is a new way to think about “convenience”.  


Image courtesy of Fairlife

What is your favorite new product launch in the Health & Wellness category? Why?

I typically am not a fan of many products in health and wellness that are lasered into a single benefit space around sleep or the immune system.  As a dietitian, a single food won’t enable these kinds of benefits and I get frustrated when these kinds of launches occur.  My favorite product launches are ones that can be used in different ways for people within the family and/or make it easier to choose the healthier choice.  Fairlife Nutrition Plan Shakes deliver against the first.  My boys use them after workouts, I use them as a light lunch or quick breakfast and my husband fits them into his day to add protein to his bran cereal in the am.  For the latter, Lotus Rice Ramen noodles area staple at our home now.  They are convenient, delicious, and a versatile way for me to get my boys to eat a variety of lean meats, veggies and ethnic flavors.  They also don’t come with the same negative sodium and fat levels of traditional ramen. Innovations that can deliver these greater health and wellness benefits will be the ones with long-term success.  

Xander Shapiro

Xander is a seasoned General Manager and strategy leader with over 20 years experience driving profitable growth in both large CPGs and startups, including Del Monte and Akorn Technology. He focuses on businesses that deliver nutrition, health and wellness through fresh produce, plant-based foods, and botanical supplements.

See All Works