An influential minority: Progressive health and wellness consumers redefine food culture


(Photo: Flickr user
atl10trader)

For the better part of the past two decades, most consumers and companies were looking to solve primarily baseline health and wellness conditions or find new approaches to them. And those goals fell into one of two buckets. The first bucket was health condition management and consumers were looking for food and beverage products that would help them treat or prevent specific conditions. The second bucket was around weight management. At the time, consumers were very much in a reactive mode to their approach.

Today, we find a group of progressive health and wellness consumers who are increasingly influential in redefining food culture.

While they may be a minority group in terms of overall numbers, the influence progressive wellness consumers have over food culture is disproportionate. Progressive wellness consumers are paving the way, sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge with mainstream consumers who are hungry for guidance and direction.

As shoppers, progressive health and wellness consumers are no longer thinking about condition management (lowering cholesterol or blood pressure) or dieting (low fat, low carb) but are focused on positive nutrition and fresh, less processed, “real” foods and beverages. They also want to have fun. From a purchase and use perspective, this means moving away from products that are fat-free, diet products or 100-calorie portion packs to kale, dark chocolate and quality fats, such as those found in nuts, avocados and butter.

For all consumers, the “new healthy” is a consumer journey of contradiction and discovery. To decipher the new healthy, progressive health and wellness consumers are seeking alternatives to fear-based information, a phenomenon that has been driving wellness views for decades. A focus on foods and beverages has become central to the new healthy and two modern approaches to eating that progressive consumers are utilizing to stack the deck for optimal results include plant-based and Paleo diets. Such eating styles signal the fact that how we think about and understand nutrition and our bodies is changing. Plant-based and Paleo-focused diets are two modern approaches progressive consumers are utilizing to stack the health and wellness deck for optimal results. Each eating style differs and yet ultimately, both are all about wellness and human performance.

From a broad perspective, today’s progressive health and wellness consumer believe that good nutrition is just one of the three pillars of living and aging fitfully. These pillars include:

  • A focus on “dialed-in nutrition” and interests in biodynamics, good digestion and animals raised humanely
  • Sleep fitness and interests in protecting circadian rhythms and taking supplements like magnesium for better sleep
  • Stress reduction and interests in how exercise, meditative movement and a lighter approach to life (e.g., laughter with loved ones) can work beneficially together

Visionary companies in the food and beverage space will increasingly need to be not only passionate about food culture, but they will need to understand progressive health and wellness consumers so they can authentically speak to mainstream consumer aspirations. This is especially true for mass market brands with broad distribution and food retailers and restaurateurs serving large volumes of shoppers and diners. In essence, for food and beverage stakeholders in the mass market, it’s not necessary to market directly to progressive health and wellness consumers, but understanding their aspirations will have rising importance. Going forward, progressive health and wellness consumers will increasingly influence food culture itself in diverse ways including the following:

  • We anticipate there will be clearer labeling of food and beverage production methods, as well as provenance and nutrition.
  • It will likely be statutory to disclose how something is grown and whether anything is added to that process, such as pesticides, as well as the potential impact they may have on human health.
  • Like it or not, GMO crops are expected to be taken to new levels beyond the current focus of technology to intensify production. With this, we can expect biodynamic farming to become more prominent in the coming years.
  • Greater agricultural production is likely to be usurped by more sustainable farming methods incorporating modern technology that benefits farmers and consumers via increased nutrient profiles of our food and diversity in the food supply.
  • Soil health will increasingly enter mainstream thinking. We expect progressive health and wellness consumers will influence improved management and understanding of soil health.
  • Consumers will be increasingly influenced to make significant changes to their lifestyles with a focus on more sustainable diets.
  • We anticipate that a more sophisticated understanding of digestion and inflammation will spread to the mainstream, particularly as research around the microbiome and the gut-brain connection continues to grow.

As CEO of The Hartman Group, Demeritt drives the vision, strategy, operations and results-oriented culture for the company’s associates as The Hartman Group furthers its offerings of tactical thinking, consumer and market intelligence, cultural competency and innovative intellectual capital to a global marketplace.

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