The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) recently released its report of annual trends. These trends are the result of various NMI research sources including the Health & Wellness Trends Database, the LOHAS Consumer Trends Database and Healthy Aging/Boomer Database, as well as analysis of current activities in the marketplace. NMI databases, now including 10 years of data across 500,000+ U.S. consumers, help provide comprehensive information on more than 150 product categories.
The overarching concept across health, wellness and sustainability in 2009 is that of "recalibration," and that has formed the basis of all of NMI's trends for this year. According to NMI president Maryellen Molyneaux, "After a decade of dualities, highs and lows, consumers are resetting the scales. Our research indicates that consumers are seeking 'The Middle Way,' which NMI defines as a lifestyle approach grounded in comfort, safety, sustainability and moderation. It's manifesting itself in a rising demand for consistent and nourishing energy as an alternative to the roller coaster of caffeine and sleep aids to a reorganization of family finances. It's all about balance—balanced nutrition, balanced budgets, balanced lifestyles and balanced energy."
NMI's top ten trends for 2009 are:
1. Small steps, big changes.
Consumers are beginning to make long-term changes to their lifestyle in a trend that represents realistic and tangible steps rather than sporadic and short-lived initiatives. From walking to work or getting another hour of sleep for better health to recycling or turning down the thermostat for the environment, sustainable, moderate, consistent and practical are the daily mantras of the Small Steps, Big Changes movement.
After a protracted housing boom—which resulted in suburban sprawl, staggering commutes and isolated neighborhoods—consumers are seeking once again to reconnect with one another. From a resurgence in shared community living models, "the new communes," to a renewed interest in volunteerism, community gardens, YMCAs and other community centers, neighbors are looking for new and old ways to connect with other people.
3. Being here. Now.
From multitasking and the never-ending pace of work to the technological tools that constantly catapult us to another place and time, there is a growing recognition that we are being robbed of the present moment. To escape this preoccupation with either the past or the future, consumers are embracing metaphysics, such as Eckhart Tolle’s "A New Earth" or "The Power of Now", and are expressing a growing interest in eco-tourism, slow cooking and experiential consumption in an effort to be in the moment.
4. LOHAS 360
The tipping point of the fusion between personal health and planetary sustainability has arrived. Now more than ever, the distinction between the two paradigms is blurred as consumers include their own personal health as a microcosm and reflection of the health of the planet. Increasingly, consumers' values are resonating with companies that are able to fuse both a personal and planetary perspective into their brand/company offerings.
5. Clean sweep
Consumers are expressing a desire to eliminate anything toxic from their lives and seeking to control things that are within their sphere of influence: their relationships, their lifestyles and their bodies. With increased concern about environmental factors, the phenomenon of detoxification as a way to improve personal health is also growing and manifesting in everything from non-toxic consumer electronics and household cleaning products to spa detox and air filtration systems.
6. Not so alternative
From alternative fuels to alternative apparel, choices and options challenging the status quo across industries are being embraced. With the increased usage of alternative health care practices, physicians, insurers, employers and consumers are embracing a more preventative approach to health. And as consumers continue to search for solutions to global warming, business and government will accelerate the navigation of environmental sustainability. Will the status quo ever be the same?
Rather than simply evaluating consequences or treating symptoms, consumers are beginning to ask not only "what" but "why?". From increased interest in a company's supply chain—where materials come from and how they’re made—to a recognition that lifestyle, environmental factors, and issues related to vascular inflammation are the fundamental components of aging and disease, consumers are taking a closer and more informed look at the underlying causes of health and sustainability.
8. Beauty shop
A new definition of beauty is emerging, reflecting the growing awareness that beauty comes from the inside, transparent and timeless. This new appreciation for all things authentic is translating across categories including vintage clothing, classic cars and historic renovations. For personal beauty, it is reflected in the new status symbol of naturally looking good at any age without the aid of invasive procedures or plastic surgery.
Energy 2.0 reflects the emerging desire to conserve energy on both a personal and planetary level. Rather than squandering energy, people realize that their bodies, like the planet, are not an inexhaustible resource. This planetary health is manifesting itself on topics ranging from climate change to land conservation to renewables. On a personal level, consumers are demanding consistent and sustained energy for themselves. They are dissatisfied with the high/low spikes, but interested instead in healthier alternatives to caffeine and sugar.
In all areas of consumption, consumers are choosing to buy less in order to buy better. This trend reflects a desire for products with greater meaning and, given the economic downturn, is expected to continue to grow across categories. Now more than ever, products that reflect a rich or unique brand story are perceived to be more valuable—from an evolving desire for heirloom, artisanal and varietal foods to treasures found on eBay—it reflects a desire for history, for legends and for legacies.
Look for more information and implications of these trends to be presented by NMI at industry events throughout 2009 and in their upcoming syndicated reports.