It’s Cold Season: Prepare for Health-Focused Shoppers During a Pandemic
We’re entering the final stretch of 2020, and in this unusual year, a lot can happen in the next few months. What we do know is that fewer people will be hopping on planes, going to restaurants, hosting large gatherings, and crowding malls—and everyone will be thinking about their health. That’s why retailers and brands in the natural and wellness space are in a unique position to be top of mind for health-focused shoppers this fall and winter.
When the pandemic triggered a lockdown in March, products focused on health and well-being surged. They tapered off in subsequent months, but as August began, they showed signs of growth once again. Whether it’s because COVID-19 cases continue to rise, more businesses are reopening, or lockdown is taking a toll, health-focused shoppers clearly care about health from the inside out.
In order to help you strategize for colder months that might not look like they did last year (or any year you’ve been in business), we’ve put together some reasons you can expect health-focused shoppers to be thinking differently this year.
Immunity Is More Important Than Ever
Social distancing, masks, and regular handwashing aren’t going away anytime soon, but unfortunately, annual cold and flu season is arriving—and experts are concerned about what that means for COVID-19 transmission. As shoppers spend more time indoors, especially if they gather with friends and family for the holidays, they are going to focus on maintaining a strong immune system to prevent any illnesses. Their diets are one way they can do that.
We’ve already seen shoppers treating food as medicine and choosing items that are linked to strong immune systems. Looking at data from SPINS Natural Enhanced and Conventional channels (powered by IRI) for the 52-week period ending 8/9/20, the strength of immunity functional ingredients is clear: elderberry is up nearly 300%, zinc grew more than 150%, echinacea rose almost 150%, and vitamin C grew a little more than 100%. Immunity is on shoppers’ minds.
Customers will be seeking out these ingredients, especially in foods and beverages, to establish and sustain a strong immune system as they try to avoid COVID, the flu, and any other illness that could send them to the doctor’s office or prevent them from visiting their loved ones during the holidays.
Shoppers Want Comfort
Whether you’re talking about holiday meals or homemade soups, fall and winter are the quintessential comfort food months. This year, that desire to indulge on seasonal favorites could be amplified a bit, especially with fewer holiday parties, less traveling, and limited indoor dining. Homemade meals will be one of the few perennial traditions shoppers can turn to. The bread baking boom in the first few months of the pandemic--which came from having a lot of shelf-stable products on hand, plenty of free time, and a craving for comfort foods—could make a return as the temperatures drop and holidays approach.
Looking at that same 52-week period, we see the convergence of pandemic shopping and comfort food ingredients, with dinner kits and other entrees and mixes rising 49%, long pasta up 41%, and macaroni and cheese up 26%.
That doesn’t mean shoppers are tossing out their usual diets. It simply means that calorie counting might not be the top priority for every meal. Weekly menus might include an extra indulgent dessert or rich entrée. And thanks to the rise in plant-based options, which proved popular during grilling season, vegetarian and vegan shoppers are just as likely to reach for comfort foods on their shopping trips. These colder months will likely see shoppers choosing recipes and picking up treats that make feel good in what has been a tough and strange year.
Wellness Is About More Than Diets
Shoppers wants to stay healthy and adhere to their lifestyles, whether that’s clean eating or gluten free, but they want to feel good, too. Comfort food is certainly part of that mentality. After all, health and well-being are about more than numbers on a scale. It can mean reducing stress, being active, or spending more time doing activities you love.
As the year winds down and the new year approaches, you might see fewer resolutions focused solely on weight loss—though those will certainly remain popular. Remember that the next few months are going to be cold, the days are shorter, and COVID is still a threat. By the time January rolls around, most of the country will be entering 9 months of lockdown. That’s why you could see workers not checking their emails after hours and more people trying to stay active during winter weather. Or they might just unwind with a cup of tea or a cocktail.
Just based on shopping behavior over the same 52-week period, it’s clear that shoppers are leaning on their favorite natural beverages for daily comfort. Tea concentrates are up 26%, ready to drink coffees are up 24%, and loose green and white teas are up 21%. Alcoholic beverages are seeing equal strength in the natural market. In year over year growth, natural products alcohol sales are up 20%, with hard cider, mead, and other malts showing a strong 128% growth, spirits and mixers up 42%, beer rising 22%, and wine growing 13%. The pandemic has clearly encouraged many consumers to enjoy a beverage at home, and that’s likely to stay true as temperatures drop.
Brands: Be Prepared This Holiday Season
Approaching the holiday season knowing that very little is business as usual can make it difficult to plan. However, you know for certain that shoppers will be heading to the grocery aisles or your ecommerce site (which is why every brand needs an omnichannel strategy) for some of their favorites and thinking about all aspects of their health.
This year is an opportunity to get creative and think beyond just the holiday meals. Look for opportunities to show customers how everything from vitamins to essential oils to body care to a glass of wine fit into their quest for health and well-being in an unusual winter.
Retailers: Look for Creative Opportunities
Approaching the holiday season knowing that very little is business as usual can make it difficult to plan. However, you know for certain that shoppers will be heading to the aisles and your ecommerce site as they search for the products that improve their overall wellness and bring them comfort. Prepare with a comprehensive omnichannel strategy so you can meet shoppers where they are. This year is an opportunity to great creative and think beyond usual holiday meals and sales tactics.
Look for opportunities to show customers how everything from vitamins to essential oils to body care to a glass of wine fit into their quest for health and well-being in an unusual winter.