As the health and wellness market evolves and matures, understanding consumer attitudes, behavior and product use is crucial to developing successful business strategies. According to the Natural Marketing Institute's Health and Wellness Trends database, fundamental shifts imperative to strategic planning, opportunity analysis, new product development and many other health and wellness marketplace initiatives are becoming apparent. Based on these findings, NMI's top 10 consumer trends for 2002 are:
1. Food Functionality: As consumers shy away from unhealthy foods, fortified and functional foods will become increasingly more common in the packaged-goods aisle. Watch for new products that help manage specific diseases, including diabetes and arthritis, and those that address everyday problems such as stress and low energy.
2. Values-Based Brand Development: In a return to yesteryear, consumers are considering more than price when they go grocery shopping. They recognize that a brand itself means something and are drawn to those that reflect their personal ideals and ethics. For example, Stonyfield Farm is well known for its dedication to the environment. An increasing number of brands are vying to tap into such consumer values and turn customer relationships into business assets.
3. Away-From-Home Healthy Eating: Although consumers regularly spend more money eating out than they spend in grocery stores, many are rethinking the wisdom of convenience eating. As consistency and balance gain acceptance as keys to maintaining long-term health, companies will start offering more food products—organic, vegetarian or broiled rather than fried—that meet the needs of increasingly health-conscious, yet busy consumers.
4. Brand Simplification: The proliferation of health and wellness products, including foods and beverages, supplements, personal care products, medications and even health care services, begets an easily overwhelmed consumer. Companies are realizing that focusing and simplifying their brand messages and benefits is more important than ever.
5. Reinventing Supplements: The true role of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other dietary supplements is a moving target—one that gets more complicated as fortified and functional foods grow in popularity. Companies will attempt to solve the problem with increased brand differentiation, product quality and proven efficacy.
6. Organics Hurdles: Although the organics marketplace continues to thrive with new products and distribution gains, whether consumers truly understand the benefits of buying organic is an open question. If organic brands are to thrive and become truly integrated with everyday products, consumers must understand what they're buying. Most have trouble comprehending organics' benefits, which are not necessarily singular in meaning and application. Most consumers identify only one attribute of organics such as it's healthier, safer or more environmentally sound. More education is needed.
7. Age-Specific Opportunities: Health and wellness products that meet household needs are becoming the norm, whether it's foods, beverages and supplements for parents of new children, single parents, college students or retirees. Marketing to specific age groups or consumer "life stages" will continue to intensify.
8. Soy, the Ultimate Health Food: Will consumers ever fully understand, use and trust soy foods? As household penetration of soy products across categories continues—and mainstream consumer packaged-goods companies search for new brands and extensions—look for a range of soy foods beyond soy milk and soy burgers to enter mainstream consciousness. Soy use is growing in frozen entrees, packaged grocery and snacks.
9. Weight Loss Challenge: Weight loss is a lifelong process and consumers are hungry for solutions that really work, especially products and services that help them develop fundamental lifestyle changes. Watch for new products, such as functional weight loss foods and beverages designed to become part of everyday habits and practices.
10. Integrated Health and Wellness Branding: Consumers are searching for meaningful relationships with products and brands that provide trustworthy, credible and integrated benefits. Their desire for simplicity and functionality goes hand in hand with the opportunity to brand across a variety of health and wellness products and services. Spectrum Organic Products, for example, makes culinary oils and vinegars as well as essential fatty acids and supplements. Brands that succeed in crossing conventional product and category boundaries will develop truly unique consumer benefits and solutions.
Steve French is managing partner at NMI (www.NMIsolutions.com), in Harleysville, Pa. NMI publishes a range of reports derived from proprietary, primary research studies. Its most comprehensive consumer research is the annual Health and Wellness Trends Report, a nationally projectable, 2,000+ general population consumer household study—now with three years of trended data.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 6/p. 52, 54