Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the Consumer Price Index rose to a record-setting 8.5% in March, inflation has been top of mind for shoppers and retailers alike. Add to that the ongoing pandemic, supply chain issues and labor shortages and you have a trio of disruptions that are affecting store shelves and shoppers’ wallets. Looking back at the 2007 financial crisis—and even to the start of the pandemic—we’ve learned that shoppers continue to buy better-for-you products as they adapt to major events.
That ongoing commitment to health means natural products retailers will continue to be destinations for shoppers focused on their physical and mental well-being. This is a unique opportunity for health and wellness retailers to guide shoppers through inflation.
1. Price gaps beginning to close
Many shoppers have held a belief that health and wellness products are out of their budget because of their higher price points. That was likely true for many shoppers in the early years of the industry and even today for products debuting on the market, but it’s no longer the norm. Plenty of brands offer better-for-you items that compete with conventional pricing, and that competition tightens during periods of inflation.
According to SPINS data, conventional prices are already outpacing health and wellness (HWI) prices. From January 2021 to January 2022, the average retail price rose 7% for all products compared to 5% for HWI. Meanwhile, promotional dollars have been declining: From February 2019 to January 2022, all product promotion dollars shrank by 13%, compared with HWI’s 7% decrease. Cost is always a factor for shoppers but it becomes less of a point of differentiation when their usual items are in the same ballpark as natural, organic, clean and similar items. Now is the time to make these products and their comparable prices visible to customers. Plus, as supply chain woes continue to affect certain items, shoppers now considering these health and wellness items will have a wider assortment of options to consider.
2. Better-for-you products are accessible forms of self care
Life has been stressful for everyone since March 2020, and concerns about inflation are not helping. That’s why you can expect shoppers to replicate behavior we saw throughout the pandemic and in previous financial events: finding joy in small doses. When costs go up, vacations, dining out, new clothes and other elective costs take a backseat to the essentials. For many shoppers, their own health and wellness—both physical and mental—are non-negotiable.
We know that even in tough times, shoppers don’t abandon their dietary needs (i.e., vegan, keto, gluten free) or wellness goals (i.e., sustainability, clean label, nootropics). And if they’re having more at-home meals, they’re going to buy high quality, flavorful ingredients to replicate their favorite restaurant dishes or just broaden their recipe collection. Consider that SPINS data found sales for global flavors grew significantly throughout 2021, with wasabi up 161%, siracha up 108%, and arrabiata up 63%. Shoppers are finding ways to enliven their meals when they’re limiting trips to restaurants.
Similarly, fewer happy hours at a bar can mean more at-home cocktails free of artificial ingredients or glasses of natural wine. The body care aisle also offers options like bubble baths or high quality body care. These are indulgences that won’t break the bank but let shoppers relax for a moment and pamper themselves. Communicate the availability of these items to customers so they recognize your store as a destination for the affordable and convenient stress relievers they need and deserve.
3. Private label provides affordable, high-quality options
Retailers have worked hard over the last decade to improve the quality of private label products and shift customers' perception. They’ve not only increased the quality of the products via better ingredients, flavor and formula, but they’ve also diversified options. Many shoppers made the switch to alternate brands when shelves were bare and they wanted to stock up during the early pandemic months. What they found were private label items that they liked and continued to buy even when they had other options.
Today, shoppers can also choose from private label versions of organic, keto, vegan and clean products. There are plant-based meat crumbles, vitamins and supplements, granolas—you name it. That hard work is paying off, as many private labels have become the preferred choice for many shoppers who aren’t going to trade quality for price. However, that message still hasn’t made its way to all shoppers—and these items are ideal in times like these.
Retailers: Educate shoppers and enable product discovery
- Establish your store as the destination that lets shoppers stretch their budgets and cross off whatever items they’re looking for.
- Ask yourself if your digital and brick-and-mortar experience are informing shoppers about their options and enabling product discovery.
- Evaluate whether you have effective in-store merchandising, e-commerce offerings and data to create a shopping experience that makes life a little easier for shoppers.
Dawn Valandingham is senior vice president of retail at SPINS, a leader in data and retailer solutions for the natural products industry. She leads the SPINS Retail strategy, which includes innovative tactics around recruitment and retention of retail partners.
This piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.