DUBAI: As Muslims prepare for Ramadan, new research suggests that consumer consumption habits during the holy month are shifting, with greater emphasis being placed on healthy food and drink options and on convenience when breaking the fast.

A study by Kantar AMRB – Ramadan Connect 2.0 – involved face-to-face interviews, focus groups and ethnographic interviews with women in the United Arab Emirates to understand how behaviour is changing.

Over the past four years, consumption of healthy food has increased from 10% to 17%, the research found. Fruits, laban, green tea, juices, soups and salads are therefore taking a greater share of the space on the dining table.

When it comes to cold drinks, for example, soda consumption has decreased by 9% over the period while laban consumption has increased by 6%.

But after a day of fasting, something sweet is generally sought as a quick fix to replace depleted energy reserves. Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola last year brought the two together in an award-winning campaign built around an Iftar meal that took place in the dark.

As well as the health angle, AMRB's research found a growing focus on balanced meals to avoid the negative effects of ailments like indigestion, bloating and sudden weight gain, which can affect people whose eating routines have suddenly altered.

There is also a reassessment of choices to minimise wastage in line with Ramadan's spirit of austerity and simplicity.

Edwin Coutinho, Associate Vice President, Kantar AMRB, observed that more women are having to prepare meals by themselves without the level of help they previously enjoyed.

"This requires a lot of planning in advance and we have seen a marked shift from a bulk-based buying approach to a need-based approach; that is, they plan out what they need and buy smartly," he said.

Convenience has become increasingly important, leading to an increase in purchases of ready meals and ordering in (mostly of side dishes).

"The number of dishes prepared at home has reduced to 53% from 66% in 2012," Coutinho noted. "In fact, out of the food consumed at Iftar, 58% is store-bought."

Data sourced from Kantar AMRB; additional content by WARC staff