In The Hartman Group’s polling, when consumers were asked about how they define wellness, 67 percent of respondents included "not being ill." Just as many cited "being able to deal with stress." And even more included "being physically fit" (73 percent) and "feeling good about myself" (74 percent) in their definition of wellness.
The article asks if consumers define wellness more broadly and if it makes the concept too vague to be a useful sales point for marketers of wellness-related products and services. And does this make it more difficult for brands that are seriously focused on wellness to distinguish themselves from those that have merely latched onto some of the rhetoric of wellness?
"While the notion of quality of life is very broad, consumers still look to markers of quality on a category-by-category basis, as they determine whether or not the product or service is authentic and can play a role in their wellness toolkit," responds Shelley Balanko, The Hartman Group. "Consumers are becoming more attuned to authenticity cues to discern the 'real' from the 'fake.' Authenticity is communicated through compelling product/company narratives with products containing whole, real and clean ingredients created by knowledgeable people who genuinely care."
'Fresh, Real and Clean Food’
The article states that consumers understand the source of wellness largely as a matter of "you are what you eat." As the report states, more than ever, consumers view fresh, real and clean food as the foundation for health and wellness. In part, this interest takes the form of shunning things that are bad for you. In fact the top ingredients that consumers are avoiding are related to cardiovascular health: cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat and salt.
The survey asked respondents to say how they would describe themselves based on a number of statements about shopping for food and beverages.
- Twenty-nine percent said they're described by "I look for foods and beverages that are good for my heart."
- Twenty-seven percent said the same about looking for foods/beverages "with added vitamins and minerals (e.g., orange juice with calcium)."
- Also garnering sizable "describes me well" votes from the survey's respondents were shopping for foods/beverages "that help lower my cholesterol" (24 percent), "that are minimally processed" (21 percent), "that are locally grown or produced" (20 percent) and "that contain only ingredients I recognize" (19 percent).
- Fewer (11 percent) said they're described by "I look for foods and beverages that are labeled 'organic.'"
According to the article, while organic is still a quality cue, other cues have emerged as indicators of high-quality experiences/products. To be ahead of the curve, marketers need to communicate around the trend-leading quality cues, real and clean.
Preventing vs. Treating
The report emphasizes that consumers are more apt to see foods as useful in preventing than in treating health problems.
- 56 percent said they're using foods to prevent high cholesterol, vs. 30 percent using foods to treat it.
- Respondents were much more apt to be using foods to prevent than to treat cancer (46 percent vs. 10 percent), high blood pressure (41 percent vs. 15 percent) and osteoporosis (27 percent vs. 10 percent).
- Excessive weight is an exception to this pattern, as nearly equal numbers of respondents said they're using foods to prevent it (57 percent) or treat it (59 percent).
The report says "interest in Vitamin D has exploded" this year. According to the article, it's a reflection of what can happen when consumers hear about something "from multiple sources" -- a phenomenon that can transform mild interest into specific action
Vitamin D has been a focus in mainstream media in the past year. People have been hearing about it on Oprah, or at the supermarket checkout, or from a friend or colleague. The survey shows that 60 percent of respondents said they're adding more Vitamin D to their diets
Degrees Of Intensity
Of course, while interest in health and wellness is widespread, it's not universally strong. Based on respondents' answers to the survey, the report classified respondents into "Core" participants, "Mid-level" participants, "Inner Mid-level" participants and "Outer Mid-level" participants in their wellness engagement. The groups differ significantly when it comes to translating intention into action. As the report puts it, "Consumers in the Periphery and Outer Mid-level tend to have more wellness aspirations than behaviors." Those in the Inner Mid-level "engage in wellness more behaviorally and less aspirationally," while the "Core consumers' participation in wellness is almost entirely behavioral.
'Marinating' in Information
Does misplaced faith in their nutrition-and-wellness savvy make lots of consumers a tougher audience for the messages of brands that are serious about wellness? The article indicates consumers have been marinating in health-and-wellness information for the past decade. Unfortunately, a lot of this information has been contradictory. Unless Core, consumers are confused by all the information available, and are resorting to intuition and pragmatism to determine what products will serve their needs. Marketers need not cut through ignorance, but rather emphasize their products' differentiators and authenticity.