Foods and beverages have long been at the epicenter of health and wellness lifestyles. In fact, consumers usually enter the world of wellness by making changes to their physical health and wellness. This means what they put in their bodies, what consumers eat and drink. They typically begin by adding more nutritious and healthy foods and beverages and then follow with eliminating foods and beverages that are nutritionally lacking or contain unwanted ingredients. Nothing else will affect wellness lifestyles quite like the essential and frequent nature of food and beverage consumption.
The realities of consumers’ aspirations and demands to eat and drink healthier products and experience higher-quality wellness lifestyles have been the dominant factor driving the innovation of products and brands and the retail shopping experience. What trends are gaining momentum to shape the future of shopping for health and wellness products and services?
In order to develop products and retail settings that resonate with today's consumers, understanding how consumers participate and enter into wellness behaviors is key. Uncovering the all-important why behind what opportunities can be derived from the consumer behaviors driving dynamic growth in the health and wellness arena begins with understanding how consumers live, where they shop and what they buy.
In order to understand how health and wellness intersects with lifestyle, we can look at how consumers define wellness.
The Hartman Group has spent more than 25 years exploring health and wellness lifestyles and trends. Starting in 2000 with the groundbreaking syndicated study, we described consumers’ desire to take back control of their personal health and the health of their families. In the 2007 and 2010 studies, we told the evolving wellness story of new underlying motivations — the desire for quality life experiences and the search for premium/fresh food and beverage products. Balance emerged as a theme early on but has evolved over time to become more all-encompassing as consumers developed new meanings and practices around what being healthy and well means.
Today’s conception of balance is indicative of a shift in health and wellness culture from the reactive, rules-based paradigm of the past to a more proactive, personalized one. In the reactive paradigm, health and wellness meant a lack of illness. Illness prompted a reaction, and H&W was achieved by following one-size-fits-all instructions of doctors and other accepted medical authority figures. As consumers shifted away from this reactive notion of health and wellness, balance began to mean more than just a balanced diet or balancing calorie intake with calorie burn.
The current, proactive vision of H&W is about knowing oneself and developing a balanced, healthy lifestyle focused on the long term and customized to each individual. Balance today not only encompasses eating, resting, energy and activity but also social life, “me time,” and mental and emotional wellness. It is a flexible, livable idea that recognizes and incorporates the trade-offs of everyday life. Healthy eating can be balanced by the occasional treat, and social responsibilities with time for oneself.
In their pursuit of health and wellness, consumers shop a variety of retailers. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s continue to lead the way in consumer perceptions when it comes to store atmosphere, selection and policies concerning health and wellness.
As organic and other product distinctions have become more familiar and accessible, consumers are developing specific shopping strategies related to organics and antibiotic/hormone-free meat and dairy, and they are reading labels to make sure their health and wellness dollars go to their highest priorities, while keeping shopping trips efficient and within budget.
One channel that continues to lag behind other channels when it comes to the pursuit of H&W is Food Service. Consumers pay less attention to their diet when they eat out and often have other priorities for away-from-home occasions. However, those who may be looking for alternatives can be frustrated not to find healthy menu options where they choose to go. As food service operators continue to make changes to sourcing strategies and elevate transparency around their ingredients, consumers will increasingly see eating out as a more holistic balance of permissible indulgence and healthfulness.
While the third component of this health and wellness lifestyle analysis is on which products consumers buy, the focus is on the consumer, not so much the products. Consumers have a wide variety of products and services to choose from to fulfill their health and wellness lifestyles with many different drivers affecting purchase.
Consumers share a common understanding of what a healthy diet is. Fresh, less processed food is the cornerstone of a healthy diet for consumers throughout the world of health and wellness. Consumers also share an understanding that it is best to avoid highly processed packaged foods with long ingredient lists – and that they should eat more fruits and vegetables. Many also seek to prioritize cooking at home vs. eating out, for both health and financial reasons.
What types of food and beverages products do consumers purchase? Our Health & Wellness 2015 report finds the following behavior (describes “me well or somewhat well”) when shopping for food and beverages:
“I look for food and beverages…”
Our Health & Wellness 2015 report finds that the average American household spends about $122 a month on wellness products (self-reported). Fresh food and beverage product categories and supplements capture the greatest share of wellness dollars.
Health and wellness as we know it will continue to evolve and transform the food and beverage marketplace. The generalized trend is toward a higher-quality, more enjoyable life. Consumers are laser-focused on fresh, local, high-quality foods and beverages with inherent functionality. Consumers will increasingly tack back and forth between the passionate pursuit of pleasure and a more mundane need for pragmatic medical care.
The pursuit of everyday passion in “the great life” will intensify, further pressuring manufacturers and retailers to adapt to this more playful and whimsical understanding of health and wellness.
As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.