In Chinese astrology 2024 is the Year of the Dragon. A year, it is predicted, that promises opportunities and challenges. Pretty much like every year then! But if we’re going to breathe fire on one particular area, let’s look at lifestyle choices about health, food and diet. As usual we take our lead from the USA and in this instance a consumer analysis survey.

Apparently, pre-pandemic, consumers were as likely to be eating fast food as they were to go to a restaurant, but Covid caused a seismic shift – fast food is now consumers’ go-to. And last year saw a 26% rise in the number of people saying they often eat meals on-the-go.

For marketing companies, this presents some interesting opportunities. We can benefit by understanding fast food eaters, and how they’re different from the average consumer.

Globally, regular fast food eaters (those that have it at least weekly) are 29% more likely to say the option to use a “buy” button on a social media platform would most increase their likelihood of buying a product online. They also stand out for being motivated to buy when there’s click-and-collect delivery, as well as guest check-outs, a symptom of this push for more convenience and choice. Perhaps this is a legacy of the pandemic too – a situation that led to increased levels of laziness(or comfort eating) as people became accustomed to having takeaways delivered and eating them at home.

Unfortunately, this also might be the trigger for post-pandemic health anxiety with a decrease in the number of people who say they’re in excellent health by 22%, and the number who worry about their personal health frequently has risen by 17%.

Since the end of 2020, in the USA, there have been increases in various health conditions, with more people saying they’ve experienced or are currently experiencing chronic or severe pain (+38%), depression (+37%), backache (+24%), and high blood pressure (+11%).

It is likely the pattern is similar in the UK – and in microcosm probably in the Highlands – and as a result the self-care industry has also become a huge market, one that all kinds of brands can tap into.

The upside is that more consumers are being proactive about their health and in 2024 it’s predicted we’ll see the continued growth of a specific type of consumer – the proactive health manager. That isn’t someone who works in the health care industry, but those who actively take preventative measures to better manage their health. This is turn will lead to growth in the vitamins/supplements and health foods arenas.

More people are also tracking data on their physical, digital, and mental health on smartphone and watch devices.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of people tracking their exercise (+12%), screentime (+21%), sleep (+13%), and spending (+16%). They’re looking to keep tabs on their physical, digital, and mental health, without neglecting their day-to-day welfare too.

Re what we put in our mouths there is evidence that restrictive diets are losing steam. Fad diets like keto, Atkins, raw food or organic are losing their audience and the importance of sustainability when buying food has declined 10% year-on-year, while the number identifying as ‘flexitarians’ – people who are primarily vegetarian but who occasionally lapse with meat or fish – has increased by 13%.

For marketers these are significant developments and indeed invaluable statistics as we plan our 2024 campaigns – whether they are fuelled with dragon fire, or in reality just some canny Highland common-sense.