Natural Foods Merchandiser

The Future of Wellness

Be sure to attend the Future of Wellness session at Expo West on Friday, March 12 at 4:30pm. Editor Anna Soref will lead a discussion with Tieraona Low Dog, MD, Alan Greene, MD, William Sears, MD, and Gerard Mullin, MD.

Talk of wellness is everywhere we turn. While there is still vibrant discussion surrounding traditional aspects of wellness—healthy foods, spirituality, physical activity— the emerging dialogue now includes such diverse topics as childhood nutrition, the environment, technology and population growth.

Where the conversations are occurring is also changing. We expect to hear about Michael Pollan on National Public Radio or read about organic farming in Mother Jones. But we now see articles about superfruits in the Los Angeles Times, or functional foods in the Wall Street Journal.

Even the face of the natural products consumer is evolving. More companies offer better-for-you products, natural brands are gaining shelf space in big-box stores and corner convenience shops, and manufacturers’ marketing dollars are spent touting the benefits of these products. The result? A new type of consumer is moving into the natural products neighborhood and is driving the growth in the industry.

Recent research by Delicious Living magazine and the Boulder, Colo.-based Sterling-Rice Group identify these new consumers as the “light greens.” Light-green consumers are driven to natural products because they have had some kind of life event—pregnancy, a heart condition, diabetes. They perceive natural products as being better for them, but in terms of how they relate to their diets or health conditions.

These consumers also bring a new lexicon into the natural products shopping experience. Although the value of “organic” or “fair trade” may resonate with our core consumers, light greens value attributes like natural, convenience, low fat or reduced sodium. However they define their needs and desires, the emergence of these light-green consumers, the products they buy and the values they bring have become a powerful influence on our industry and the definition of wellness.
To get an idea of what form this influence will take, NFM looked outside the natural products arena and into areas that resonate with light-green consumers. We talked to experts in diverse sectors such as ingredients, web technology, medicine, health care, retail, trend forecasting, philosophy, public schools and even a 13-year-old blogger about how wellness plays into their world. The discussions, both thoughtful and inspiring, illuminate what we will see over the next five to 10 years:

  • Childhood nutrition and the type 2 diabetes epidemic will drive an overhaul of the food system.

  • Ethnic diversity and advancements in packaging will create a new consumer palate.

  • The archetype of the American farmer will be redefined and the agricultural landscape will include urban crops.

  • Health care will incorporate lifestyle “prescriptions” as well as pharmaceuticals.

  • Online tools and changing legislation will give people more control over their health.

  • Food safety and transparency will make “authentic” into the new “local.”

  • Technology will create global communities of subject-matter experts and users where information is almost instantly delivered, vetted and evaluated as a collective.

There’s no doubt that the future of the natural products industry is linked with the future of wellness. Natural products retailers can tap into evolving consumer knowledge and growth and incorporate new attributes, products and delivery methods into their businesses. In this way, what happens in the aisles will influence the next generation of wellness.

Jylle Lardaro is the group content director for New Hope Natural Media, advising on content for publications, trade shows and conferences. Before joining New Hope, Lardaro worked at Whole Foods Market in marketing and store leadership, as a pharmaceutical marketing director and as a marketing consultant in the food and beverage industries.

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