The story of why people get into this natural health lifestyle is one of two things, depending on whether said person is a woman or a man.
If a woman, it starts with a pregnancy. Suddenly she’s concerned above all else about the health of the little tadpole growing in her belly – a child is coming! The motherly instinct kicks in overdrive – the future of the species is at stake!
Overpopulation notwithstanding, it’s all true. And it’s to be honored. Women are the true life-givers among us sentient beings; how the men bamboozled them into subservience is still a trick I wonder about.
After the pregnancy has been determined, the conceit takes stronger hold with the doctor-recommended prenatal supplement. Hmm, so all these vitamins and minerals will help make my baby biggerstrongersmarter? Invariably, organic milk becomes the gateway product into the world of chemical-free digestible sustenance. Once she reads up on the vagaries of bad chemicals on human development, she shifts gears and dives in. Along the way she’ll read about the omega-3 DHA for the proper development of a fetus’ brain and eyes. She’ll read stories reciting studies showing how certain probiotics decrease the incidence of certain allergies. That whatever she puts into her body has a direct effect on the health of the baby when it becomes alive with its first breath.
Within a single year, this proud, strong, intelligent woman has gone from cosmopolitans and midnight fries to organic spinach and antibiotic-free Pacific salmon.
These women – they talk. They share. They inform each other’s sensibilities. With the evidence writ large all around them of diseased people made fat by crappy food choices foisted upon them at every turn, these women change the cultural zeitgeist.
And they have. That’s why in today’s food markets, the only parts of the store growing north of 3 percent are the natural and organic aisles. Some may scoff at the higher prices, but money is no object in the pursuit of optimal health for matron and next-of-kin. Not to mention that it’s being realized that the higher prices for natural and organic foods is merely the price food is supposed to be priced at, when you get past the subsidies and the complete cost picture that includes ill health to friend and farmland alike.
What is a man?
For men, it’s a different story entirely. His wife gets pregnant, but he can still crack a beer. I even managed to put on a “sympathy 10” when my wife got pregnant. It was probably due to all the excitement and thrill of all the changes to come. My wife had hormones to give her a new perspective on life. All I had was beer.
But that’s not it for men. For men, it all starts when he turns 40. Sure, the eyesight starts to go, but that’s chalked up to another bastard indignity of aging, like hangovers after a two-drink night. But then maybe it’s a set of bad numbers from the doc who surprises the heck out of him by informing him he’s got diabetes. More likely, something acute gives out – a bad back, a bum knee, stomach cramps that never seem to fully go away – something none of his doctors can manage to reverse. “Take two Advils before you go out on the weekends,” he is counseled. But that’s no way to grow old.
And then – he lucks out. Somebody points him to an alternative doc. Maybe it’s some Chinese herbs, yoga, a cleanse, a dietary change. It’s usually a bit gradual, but then he has a rare epiphany – the kind usually reserved for championship game stews in front of the television when he believes with the right quarterback the option should be the next new thing in the NFL.
The epiphany – health condition resolved, the health condition two of his health insurance-certified docs could only prescribe him pain killers for – makes the man almost as much a true believer as his wife.
If he’s lucky enough to make it through middle age unscathed (that would be a first!), the Fear of old-age dementia is enough to make him investigate tonics to reinvigorate his youth … or at least slow down the space-time continuum.
Armed with the knowledge of his health from his more-or-less annual check-ups, the man picks up a Swanson’s catalog – and there is the new medicine cabinet. There’s that one section on “Condition-specific Formulas” and they get him educated if not paranoid about all the organs and systems in his body – focus, bone, brain, prostate, heart, colon – it’s all in there.
Why condition-specific marketing works
And it all makes sense. After all, every pharmaceutical commercial on the tube is there to tell you about a particular health malady you may have thought you didn’t have, and the little pill to remedy all that.
Supplement stores follow suit, routinely organizing supplement shelves by health condition. On LinkedIn I had a conversation with Whole Foods Market’s Bryan Bootka, who had this to say:
“Condition-specific formulas are more valuable to the retailer and consumer. Glucosamine is a commodity but a comprehensive joint formula with novel (but proven) ingredients is elevated out of commodity status and also provides a higher retail price and profit margin for the retailer.”
Consumers respond well to focused marketing, which is the game with condition-specific products.
“Condition-specific branding is a strong marketing tool,” says Kent Adams, CEO of LifeHealth Science in Florida. “It limits the market reach, but provides immediate recognition of purpose. It is far easier to communicate that this is for a very specific application. It is also more limiting and puts a very high standard on the need for results.”
The condition-specific conceit probably began in North American but has since spread around the globe, according to global supply leader DSM’s Joe LaPlaca, VP of marketing. “The market is ripe for products that really work, products that are researched and are safe and resonate with consumer needs,” he said. “In North America we were at the forefront of it, but we see pickups of the concepts around the world now.”
Condition-specs come to foods and drinks
The twin pillars of obesity and diabetes are, for the most part, diet-based conditions. So it only makes sense that food and beverage companies would have a lot to say here.
But beverage companies in particular are getting in the game with waters spiked with a functional ingredient to enable a healthiness descriptor on the label. The huge problem here is that rare is the product that actually contains an efficacious dose of the bioactive.
The other food product with outsized growth is gluten-free products. Consigned mostly to bakery items like cakes, cookies and breads, as well as cereal, gluten-free will continue to grow because people are seeing it as a solution to their nagging gut-health issues. I’m waiting for the day that gluten-free products will be more than just potato- rice- or tapioca-based refined flours but will have an additional functional component to them, such as omega-3s or added minerals.
Get busy, people.