October 3, 2022

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Health and wellness 2022: Navigating consumer aspirations, approaches

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While several long-term shifts have been reshaping the American health and wellness landscape long before the pandemic, 2020 brought about unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts, shifting consumer perceptions, concerns and routines. 

While the global spread of COVID-19 has been the major driving force behind changing lifestyles and attitudes, it has not been the only force.

Much has changed how consumers live, eat and work, as well as what they value, leaving many longing for a return to “normal.” And the changed public health circumstances of these past two years have made health and wellness a top-of-mind consideration for a broader set of consumers, with the public getting rapidly educated on topics such as infectious diseases, immunity, vaccine effectiveness and safety and mental health.

During 2021, it became apparent that the pandemic created renewed attention on some key consumer values that will be sure to extend well into 2022. Here are five observations we made in our Health & Wellness 2021: Reimagining Well-being Amid COVID-19 report. 

  • In the face of great losses during the pandemic, many consumers found sources of strength and improved wellbeing amid shifting cultural conversations and lifestyles. This experience was not universal, but it was powerful. Today, there are opportunities for brands and retailers to help consumers acquire and maintain more agency over their cooking and eating as life returns to normal — e.g., via innovations that support home cooking, mindfulness and intentionality…a multidimensional wellness. 
  • Consumers continue to avoid many of the same markers of processed food in an effort to make healthier choices, but higher engagement with cooking during the pandemic is likely to intensify scrutiny of ingredient panels in the near term, and perhaps longer.
  • Consumers acknowledge a role for indulgence in their relationship with food and COVID-19 coping strategies—but after many months of the pandemic, they are also more aware of the impact of less intentional eating approaches. Classically indulgent brands viewing health and wellness as a potential platform must tread carefully when what consumers really come to them for is flavor. Better-for-you indulgent brands will need to be cautious about claiming health and wellness credit as well, especially if they rely on a pattern of “mindless” eating that consumers would ideally like to avoid.
  • Plant-based callouts face erosion of health and wellness associations as additional processed versions make prominent launches in the marketplace. At QSR, or in inherently processed categories, these products may still compare favorably, but for consumers shopping for high-quality proteins, brands executing more natural plays still have opportunity to emerge as symbols of plant-based quality and health.
  • As the plant-based marketplace grows to reach a wider, more omnivorous audience, there is still room to innovate around consumer aspirations for less-processed, plant-rich foods. To future-proof in this dynamic marketplace, companies must be mindful of both flavor profiles and ingredient panels to continue to meet the needs of engaged consumers. 

The meaning of health and wellness remains firmly rooted in a foundation of physical and mental health and resilience. Consumers have returned to this ideal as their North Star to guide their aspirations as they reimagine their paths to wellbeing in the year ahead.

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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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