With the global spread of information and a constant media cycle has come a greater awareness of certain issues. Prominent among these in recent years has been the subject of health and wellness, with consumers increasingly aware of products and choices that could negatively impact their health. Although there is a natural impulse towards health preservation and vitality enhancement, increased awareness is leading to greater discernment in consumer behaviour. 

This may represent a threat to certain brands, as consumer perception of ‘unhealthiness’ could cause them to avoid products; however, it also provides an opportunity for brands to provide options angled towards wellness concerns. 

In the upcoming report from GlobalData, ‘TrendSights Overview: Health & Wellness’, senior analyst Jamie Mills explores how the health and wellness mega-trend is shaping the consumer and innovation landscape. Consumers with an increasing consciousness about how products affect their wellness present a significant market for brands but may require a notable shift in business operations and product formulation. Drawing from research detailed in the report, we examine how brands can best cater to this trend and opportunities that exist for products focused around health.

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Rising consciousness contends with convenience

According to GlobalData’s 2016 Q3 global consumer survey, only 12% of consumers are not worried about their health and a full 72% are trying to lose or maintain their current weight. With such an established level of concern about their health, perhaps driven by the prominent rise of obesity crises and diabetes worries, it is incumbent on brands to match their product offerings to consumer anxieties. As the drive for brands to assume responsibility for the healthiness of their products increases, those unwilling to engage with the trend place themselves at risk of backlash. As informed consumers are more proactively seeking out information regarding products’ effects on health, there is also the risk of any backlash being far quicker and placing a greater tarnish on brands than in the past.

This rise in informed consumers and the amount of information available to then is one of the key drivers behind the health and wellness mega-trend. Consumers are increasingly able to judge what best fits their personal wellness needs and, with the GlobalData 2016 Q3 global consumer survey finding that 42% proactively seek products that can improve their health, appear increasingly likely to seek out products around those needs. Moreover, there is an increasingly fashionable element to healthy lifestyles and the products that play into them. The heightened visibility of these lifestyle choices, via both social media and devices such as fitness trackers, has established a popular cache for healthy products.

61% of consumers globally say they rely heavily on time-saving goods and services

However, there are significant challenges that brands should be aware of. GlobalData’s 2016 Q3 global consumer survey found that 61% of consumers globally say they rely heavily on time-saving goods and services, meaning that they are likely to prioritise convenience over any health benefits. 
Additionally, the 2016 Q4 survey found that only 34% of consumers believe unsweetened products taste better than sweetened versions and in the 2015 Q1 survey, a full 46% of consumers said they believe that if they want a genuine treat when eating food they tend not to pay attention to whether the product is healthy or not. Those providing healthy drink products must therefore be prepared to contend with presenting a drink that is not only convenient but convincingly better tasting than competitors prioritising sweetness. 

Soft drinks contend with sugar taxes and the search for ‘healthy alternatives’

As sugar has become increasingly demonised in popular culture, and sugar taxes have been implemented across several major markets, soft drink manufactures have been forced to either reformulate or raise prices. For example, in response to the introduction of the UK sugar tax in April, the amount of sugar in Lucozade was reduced from 13g per 100ml to less than 4.5g per 100ml and while Coca Cola did not reformulate, 1.75l bottles were reduced to 1.5l with a 20p price increase. 

Fortunately, although consumers have been found to show a preference for sweetened products, GlobalData’s 2016 Q4 global consumer survey found that 54% of consumers said they would buy unhealthy food/ drink less if a tax/price increase was imposed on them. 

58% of consumers found zero-sugar claims appealing and 55% found ‘vitamin-enhanced’ claims to be very or somewhat appealing

Given the challenges sugar seems likely to continue to face, manufacturers may benefit most by formulating based on consumers’ rejecting sugar. The effectiveness of sugar taxes may be subject to question but the prospect of them, in combination with a general consumer shift towards greater health consciousness, is likely to continue to push consumers towards lower sugar and sugar alternatives. Brands must therefore look to consider how they can reformulate with ‘healthy’ alternatives to satisfy consumer demand for both health and flavour. With 58% of consumers in the 2016 Q4 survey saying they find zero-sugar somewhat or very appealing in non-alcoholic drinks, there is ample opportunity for brands to adapt their products to this changing market. 

To elevate products, however, manufacturers should consider going beyond simply reducing sugar and into offering additional health benefits. The same 2016 Q4 survey that found 58% of consumers found zero-sugar appealing also found that 55% of consumers found ‘vitamin-enhanced’ claims to be very or somewhat appealing. As health consciousness increases and low or zero-sugar options become the norm, consumers are likely to start looking for something that offers something extra. Water products offer a good opportunity here with their perception of being ‘naturally good for you’, but products targeting a sports lifestyle and offering energising effects also provide the chance for manufacturers to cater to a health conscious consumer base. 

Choosing between indulgence and health in the alcoholic beverages sector

Alcoholic drinks are at a disadvantage when dealing with the health trend given their general perception as unhealthy, with both short- and long-term negative health implications. The GlobalData 2016 Q4 global consumer survey found that a not insignificant majority of consumers (62%) consume alcohol only in moderation, while a further 22% were actively trying to reduce consumption. Although alcohol consumption can be considered largely occasion-driven, an indulgence at times during which health concerns are not overly considered, manufacturers should consider the clear implication from consumers that they are seeking alcoholic options that fit a lifestyle that sees traditional alcohol products as ‘villain’ products.

There are two main approaches that present themselves: brands should either look to emphasise their products as indulgences to be consumed only on occasion, or look to create products that specifically target the health conscious consumer. In the first case, manufacturers will mostly have to look to delivering a high level sensory and experiential product with emphasis on craft and ingredients. Although it is worth exploring whether that same experience can be created in low-alcohol products, and that exploration may become more necessary in time, it is not inconceivable for brands to position themselves as a ‘traditional’ alcoholic experience with the emphasis on a sense of indulgence.

On the other hand, manufacturers would not be remiss to pursue ‘healthy’ alcohol particularly as typically alcoholic associations have seen popularity in non-alcoholic drinks. The 2016 Q4 survey found, for example, that 41% of global consumers find non-alcoholic beverages with the claim ‘brewed’ appealing and the same number shared that sentiment for ‘malt’ claims. Brands can consider therefore, not just lowering the alcohol content of their beverages, but providing a non-alcoholic experience inspired by alcoholic products. Ultimately, the challenge will be to turn a drink category commonly viewed as an indulgence into something that can be consumed without health concerns or, at the least, drastically reduced concerns. Opportunities abound however, for manufacturers to explore avenues attractive to the health conscious consumer. 

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