Tribal diets become more personalized

GLADSTONE, MO. — Tribal or niche diets like keto and vegan are starting to become personalized, said Locke Hilderbrand, chief insights officer for Whysdom, a need-based behavior science company that combines data with human analysis and critical thinking.

“Now we’re taking those tribal elements and sculpting them down to a personal level,” he said in a June 12 webinar put on by the Center for Food Integrity, Gladstone.

Some people are focusing on a more holistic level and looking for vital minerals.

“Some people are focusing on more density from the protein and the carb load,” Mr. Hilderbrand said. “So it really depends on what niche guidelines they’re following.”

Diets began changing about 10 years ago during the “foodie” trend, he said. People wanted to create authentic cuisine at home, which led to a rising interest in health and wellness. More niche products became available in grocery stores.

Big name brands began to figure out how to appeal to niche diets.

“The brand used to create something, and the consumer would say, ‘I’m on a diet. I can’t do this,’” Mr. Hilderbrand said. “Now what’s happening is, the brand is saying, ‘I can make this (product) fit that diet.’”

COVID-19 has led more people to cook at home, which is changing diet practices as well, leading to a new “trifecta,” he said. People went from cooking maybe one meal a day to often cooking three meals a day, bringing on a desire for meals and food that might last for days.

“For years it’s been very much the trifecta of value, quality and convenience,” Mr. Hilderbrand said, adding the new trifecta is: How good and flavorful can I make a dish? How much of a prolonged time can I have it for? How well does it resonate with what I personally eat?

Susan Schwallie, executive director of The NPD Group, also spoke in the webinar. She said the number of people following a diet or nutrition platform declined by five percentage points in April, but the numbers held steady for followers of lifestyle diets like keto, vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian.

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