Monitor: Consumers are stressed; the natural products industry has answers

A New Hope Network survey finds that significant numbers of consumers who feel stress are turning to strategies that directly connect to products and resources the natural products industry offers.

Rick Polito, Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

November 10, 2022

3 Min Read

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Nov. 10, 2022

As the world emerges from COVID-19, new challenges arise. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other week to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

It’s no surprise that consumers are stressed—in 2022, it would be surprising if they weren’t—but neither should anyone be surprised at how important offerings from the natural products industry are in helping consumers manage that stress.

In a survey that found 40% of respondents reporting anxiety and 35% saying they were stressed, the biggest takeaway for the natural products industry is also the simplest. Asked how they manage their stress, “eating healthy” garnered the largest percentage of respondents calling it “somewhat” or “very” important. The 84% of consumers who responded so strongly to healthy eating for stress is roughly even with the percentage who say the same for being outdoors and in nature, and slightly ahead of the percentage who describe exercise as somewhat or very important. The top three strategies are followed by self-care products such as candles, bath salts and lotions.

Related:FDA proposes to expand criteria for 'healthy' claim on food packages


Further down the list, we discover that foods and beverages or supplements containing stress-managing ingredients are very nearly equal with prescription medicines in terms of ways that consumers are managing stress.

That natural-ingredients-versus-pharmaceuticals matchup is an important note that speaks to what’s unique about the natural products industry: its holistic approach. Of the 10 strategies listed in the survey, eight related products or services would not be surprising to see in a natural products retailer. Exercise might not not be a product, but it’s a rare natural grocer that doesn’t carry sports nutrition supplements. You can’t buy meditation in any store, but you can probably find meditation tapes next to the incense at your local co-op. They might be right down the aisle from books on hiking or birdwatching, or at least sunscreen and non-toxic mosquito repellant.

Pharmaceuticals, in contrast, target narrow benefits and not always with the healthy outlook that natural products promise. Indeed, according to this Sept. 21, 2022, article in Newsweek, "Antidepressants work better than sugar pills only 15% of the time," recent research suggests that antidepressants might only offer a slight advantage over placebos. If consumers knew this they might look more closely at supplements and functional foods for mood and mental health. Brands in those categories can’t make claims around depression, but they can offer education on that more holistic approach. Natural retailers are probably already offering community training around relaxation and meditation. Brands could provide web content and even apps that help consumers incorporate more conscious habits—perhaps habits that dovetail well with exercise, the outdoors and other strategies consumers say they are using.

Again, it’s no surprise that people are stressed, but we’d be surprised if natural products brands can’t devise more and better strategies to better market the answers to stress—answers they already have on retailers' shelves.



About the Author(s)

Rick Polito

Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

As Nutrition Business Journal's editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

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