In The Grocer last week, we read about the epidemic of liver disease blamed on cheap booze deals, the forecast for natural sweeteners, set for 12.8% growth over the next five years, and the focus on lowering salt intake. As we approach the onslaught of December excess, let’s stand back and look at some underlying health trends. There seem to be three growing macro drivers, all of which are marketing opportunities.
The first is ‘observable health’, the need to get noticed doing the right thing. Health is becoming a new social currency. People are visibly turning their backs on the traditional lifestage roles - ‘I don’t want to end up looking like my dad/mum’. They just want to look and feel as good as possible.
“Our life choices have not been restricted like this since the 50s”
External health and beauty therefore is becoming a new social signifier acting and being healthy is becoming a new fashion. What does this mean? As economic and status ambitions have to be put on hold, will life become less about money and what it can buy, but more about health and wellness as a marker of achievement?
The second is the recognition that the buck does actually stop here. The population is getting older and growing there is far greater pressure on medical and health services than ever. Medical rationing over time will force people to dip into their own resources for treatment of diseases and take responsibility, urged on by government initiatives. The need to work longer and compete in a tight job market put great pressure on individuals to take real care of themselves and their health. If they don’t, no-one else will.
Which begs the question: what are brands doing to help the situation? Are they exacerbating the problem with short-term quick health fixes rather than real health solutions?
The third is ‘new puritanism’ - understanding that the bigger world is our own responsibility and will affect the health and lifestyles of today’s and tomorrow’s generations. We are running out of road materials, ingredients and services long taken for granted are becoming scarce, from rainforests to arable land to energy sources. We will see big changes in attitudes towards personal carbon footprints, the inefficiency of meat rearing, and nonchalant waste.
Our life choices have not been restricted like this since the 50s, but now people will need to start husbanding personal family resources in new, untried ways.
To take these trends on board requires retailers and brands to fundamentally rethink the concept of healthy marketing, to move away from little gestures and the unnecessary, and towards a true partnership with consumers. Who’s up for it?
Claire Nuttall is founding partner of Thrive