The past 20 years have been witness to evolutionary changes across the health and wellness landscape, from revamping the food pyramid to launching government-sponsored health care. Many of these higher level changes have been in response to a growing concern about the future health of America’s population, as well as the systemic effects of an aging population. In addition, many changes occurring on a more personal level are being self-imposed by consumers. They are realizing some of their past behaviors are no longer sustainable without unwelcome consequences; therefore, they are trying to make better choices related to health.
As a result, health and wellness is growing up, marked by the proliferation of healthy products and practices mainstreaming across all types of categories and consumers. The growth of health and wellness is manifesting itself from technology to fast-food calorie transparency, and even to the continued blurring of food as medicine. There are a number of broad trends spreading across the health and wellness landscapea few are detailed here:
Alternatives to the Alternatives
The growth and progression of alternative health methods further reveals how consumers are pushing the envelope in search of better, faster, smarter health solutions that best fit their needs. Consumers are looking for innovative methods, products and attributes. They continue to set the bar higher and push for alternative ways to be healthier.
Alternatives in the food category focus on less meat, less artificiality, items closer to nature, foods as medicine, fewer ingredients, sustainability, fair trade, low carbon impact, food on-the-go, and healthy convenienceto name a few.
‘Show Me the Proof’
While the economy may be rebounding and consumers may be becoming “consumers" again, there is a different mindset from the previous notion of consumerism. Many people want increased accountability, responsibility and sustainability from products and/or services.
The bar continues to be set higher as it is no longer enough for companies just to say they are “transparent," but only allow a peek into their “corporate responsibility."
Consumers desire proof of a company’s initiatives, and not only in its products and manufacturing, but in what they are doing to benefit the planet and people.
Consumers are looking for a deeper understanding of the ingredients in products they useincluding foods, beverages, supplements and personal care. A majority report they usually read labels on food/beverage packages, select foods based on the ingredient list on the package, and look for foods/beverages with a short list of recognizable ingredients.
To that end, consumers want more control over what they are consuming. There is significant growth in specific ingredients that are checked for most often on package labels.
Evolution of Shopping
The concept of shopping continues to transform, and it is becoming more personalized and customized to consumers’ needs. From downtown shopping to the mall, self check-out and the explosive growth of online shopping, technological advances and consumer motivations have changed the landscape of shopping.
Noteworthy changes include those in grocery stores, with most growth found in the outer perimeter of stores where many fresh, natural and healthy foods are found. And with increasing interest in health and wellness, there has been notable growth over the past six years in products that incorporate healthful attributes, including vegetarian, organically grown, grass-fed, from sustainable farms, no artificial ingredients/colors/flavors, no artificial sweeteners, no preservatives and grown without pesticides. Products in the “center of store" are incorporating more perimeter-food attributes, such as healthy and fresh, and are also trying to find a way to enter the perimeter.
Consumers’ pursuit of health is becoming more customized to their own unique lifestyles. Movement toward self-monitoring has progressed from personal behaviors such as monitoring food intake, reading labels, and exercising, which has led to a more customized monitoring assisted by the technology age.
The future of health and wellness can no longer support a “one-size-fits-all" mentality. There is a full spectrum of individual consumer health behaviors and attitudes that help inform industry, food retailers, marketers and governmental bodies about changes and desires that continue to become more personalized and customized.
Milieu of Millennials
Millennials, more than 80 million strong, make up the largest generation of young people in historythey are taking over where Boomers are leaving off. While this generation is known by various namesMillennials, Gen Y, the Net Generation, or the Trophy Generationone thing is for certain: they are a highly influential consumer group who have a vastly different set of values and attitudes from any previous generation, and they are causing a whole realignment of how business is conducted.
Relative to health and wellness, Millennials are striving to be better, but they still face challenges. Marketers have an opportunity to reach out and help this group as they strive to improve.
Millennials are significantly more likely than other generations to:
· Believe eating organic is important to a healthy lifestyle
· Have significant use of organic foods/beverages
· Use more soy foods
· Consider themselves strict vegetarians
However, they are also more likely to feel it can be a challenge to eat right, know they should eat healthier but don’t, and typically choose foods based on how they make them feel emotionally, rather than based on nutritional content.
Get more from Steve French, managing partner, Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), in the SupplySide West education session “The Hottest Trends in Health and Wellness: Not One Size Fits All" at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. French will unveil newly gathered data and insight from annual consumer research studies of the U.S. population.
Steve French ([email protected]) is managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI, nmisolutions.com). NMI is a strategic consulting, market research, and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness, and sustainability marketplace.