The church of health: How to appeal to your shoppers' health 'religion'

By Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags functional beverage beverage

Staying healthy is becoming less about diet and more about beliefs so brands need to learn what their audience's 'religion' is and how to connect to their beliefs, according to a new in-depth trends report.

Brand strategy and innovation consultancy Healthy Marketing Team (HMT) has revealed its Global Gamechanger Report for 2019, providing food and drink manufacturers with advice on how to make health trends work for their brand.

Peter Wennstrom, founder and senior consultant for HMT, says this report provides an overview of the current 'game changing' trends, brands and consumers to help companies 'join the dots' to see how they can create better marketing and innovations to target their own audience.

"The Game Changer Report is a result of the observations we've done over a number of years in our global consulting,"​ he told NutraIngredients.

"We started to use the concept of 'game changers' to describe the macro trends or the paradigm shift where we see we are going from a food versus pharma world, to a world where nutrition and food are at the heart of everything.

"From that we started to realise we had a number of change factors that are fundamentally changing the rules for the industry.

"We see food must be for health and wellbeing. Consumers want to know more about nutrition and at the same time we have this shift from producer driven, to consumer driven trends.

"We then also have a distrust from consumers in the big brands so we realise we need to understand how consumers react to products and think about brands.

"We need to understand how to communicate with them and what are the stories and narratives they listen to...A brand which bonds with them gets their vote and becomes their ally."

HMT worked  with Lund University, Sweden, to conduct cultural research into Millennial consumers to find out what drives their purchase decisions.

Wennstrom explains that this research was named 'The church of healthy eating' because it became clear that healthy eating decisions are no longer about 'healthy eating' but instead they are about 'healthy believing'.

"The consumer is becoming a fundamentalist and we need to understand what religion they are following.

"In order to understand how to take your first step into the market place or even to renovate an old brand, you need to understand what are the belief systems and stories the trend setting consumers are connecting with.”

Game changing consumer types

HMT categorises game changing consumers into four main types; Self, Ethics, Science, Heritage.

The report describes the self-driven consumer as being motivated by how a product nourishes them and supports and indulges their self-image.

The report states: "Brands which bond with self-driven consumers sell a premium product at a premium price point and use language which encourages indulgence and the richness of experience. They will have clean and clear aesthetics and clear mission statements which connect physical health to spiritual and mental health."

The ethics-driven consumer's decisions are founded on a moral logic and the feeling that their personal choices have a larger political responsibility. As such, brands that bond with ethics consumers do demonstrable good, through their ownership, or donating profits or resources, or through sustainable practices.

The science-driven shopper will base their choices on logical reasoning. Brands which successfully bond with these consumers have clear missions backed up by experiential and research data. They use language which makes their consumers feel elite and important. They are future oriented and emphasise how they are beneficial to their consumers performance.

The heritage-driven consumer looks to the past; to culture and folkways to inform their purchases. They want products with strong ties to nature, locality, and tradition. Brands which bond with heritage consumers show the real; the dirt, the soil, and the producer.

Game changing brand

Wennstrom notes that small brands are taking an increasing share of the food and beverage market and this could be due to their ability to align their brand values with shoppers' beliefs. 

HMT has worked with plant milk replacement brand Oatly to help it align with its audience's beliefs.

"We worked with them when they were very much focused on functional nutrition and we helped them realise the key driver behind the brand is the purpose behind their brand which is change the world from a world dominated by dairy to a world dominated by plant based, both for the health of the consumer and of the planet," ​says Wennstrom.

"Their strategy change was hugely successful because then they tapped into this belief system of a quickly growing group of consumers who are 'the ethics consumers' who want to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

"That's an example of how you can work to connect with their belief systems."

Live to train

In line with this idea of 'health religions' one game changing trend described in HMT's report is consumers move away from thinking of training as being something they do and instead seeing it as being the way they live their lives.

istock runner
istock | runner

It states: "Consumers want their health practices to remain with them in all aspects of their lives, at all times, and therefore even want their indulgences to come with some sort of health benefit." 

This trends is transcending the full range of demographics of consumer, meaning everyone wants functional food and drink. As such, the industry has witnessed new product launches aimed at children and the over 50’s alike. Think Kids is a US brand of protein bars offering around 7g of protein and 4g of sugar per bar.

The reports suggests brands look to support their shoppers in their high performance needs inside and outside of the gym, track, or sports field. For example, companies can offer products that help consumers to relax when they need to sleep, to focus when they need to work, and therefore to gain a better workout when that time comes.

Sugar buster

Getty | Ljupco
Getty | Ljupco

HMT's report notes the move away from replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners and towards education about the way sugar effects our health. 

While lifestyle consumers are favouring natural and local solutions, such as honey and dates, the mass-market consumer still wants the taste they know, without the sugar. 

Prebiotic non-digestible fibres, also known as Oligosaccharides, are also more frequently being used to replace sugar.


Let kids lead

Millennials parents' habits are also discussed within the report, specifically their move towards focusing on their own beliefs, as opposed to letting the need of the child rule all decisions.

iStock | Ivanko_Brnjakovic
iStock | Ivanko_Brnjakovic

The HMT report says that for new parents, boosting infant immunity with healthy food is of a great importance. Parents’ product preferences are influenced by culture and region. As such, in Asia, parents want products packed with nutritiocious and functional ingredients that can make their child taller, stronger and smarter. In Europe and the US, parents want clean labels so they know exactly what is going in their child’s body.

German baby food brand Tummy Love has picked up on this trend and created organic, fresh and natural baby pouches with minimal processes and ingredients.

Gender roles 

istock | aquatarkus
istock | aquatarkus

HMT points out that issues that have previously been taboo are coming to the forefront of mainstream culture and, as such, products that support women’s sexual health, pleasure and reproductive functions are carving out market space.

Also, modern views over what men and women want and need are changing. Moving away from the old models, where men need to be strong and women need to be beautiful, new products reject gender specific preferences and instead use gender neutral marketing, imagery and labelling





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