While wellbeing has been a top consumer priority for the last couple of years, the conflation of mental and physical health is emerging as a new focal point. People aren’t just trying to cope with the mental toll of the pandemic (stress, anxiety, isolation), they are also deeply concerned about their physical wellbeing. Add in the fear of physical and mental safety concerns for friends, family and colleagues and it’s little surprise that wellbeing is a critical consumer sentiment.

This shift is also underscored by the rise of self-care (an $11bn industry, according to Harvard Business Review), the mood market (products and services designed around emotions) and the continued meteoric success of the wellness market. Brands helping to improve physical and mental wellbeing will have a stronger resonance with consumers in 2021.

1. Immune supporting

With uncertainties over when a coronavirus vaccine might materialise, people are prioritising nutritious food and drink to maintain their immune system. As a result, food companies are rapidly launching or repositioning products with potential immune-support benefits.

While comfort-food pleasures sustain us emotionally, three-quarters of global consumers are planning to eat and drink more healthily as a result of the pandemic, according to German-based global ingredient maker Beneo. This will naturally lead them to nourishing everyday foods that can potentially build up immunity, such as orange juice, full of immune-enhancing vitamin C. Brands should reformulate nourishing, familiar foods with these goals in mind, while also tracking regulatory guidelines for on-pack immunity claims.

Mirroring the food and drink industry, beauty is now seeing a shift towards immune-enhancing ingredients and adaptogens, as consumers look to protect themselves against future outbreaks with cleansing products that can also nurture health. Biocol Labs, for example, offers plant-based, doctor-approved, plain-speaking ingestibles, including its ‘Something for Immunity’ solution.

2. Hi-tech self-care

With consumers unable to afford visits to doctors, dermatologists and trichologists, and wanting to avoid the perceived risks of hairdressers and salons, many are managing their own wellness and beauty at home. Pinterest reported that searches for “self-care at-home” increased by 332% in April 2020, and brands are innovating with technology to support these new service needs.

Clartici’s hand-held ‘ICI’ scanner measures skin condition, recommends the required blend of its Reiki Serum and Sanguine Moisturiser, and then tracks their performance. These products will appeal as they offer freshness and safety because they are hygienic. L’Oréal’s soon-to-launch Perso and Shiseido’s Optune offer fresh, tailored and ultra-hygienic approaches to skincare, with personalised prescriptions becoming important as beauty shifts its focus from perfecting to protecting.

3. Active investments

Another beneficiary of the self-care and wellbeing mindset is the home-workout category. In the UK, 60% of young people say they have been finding exercise helpful in managing their mental health (Statista, 2020) and in India, Decathlon saw a 141% volume growth in the sale of gym equipment in the three months after the pandemic hit, compared with pre-Covid levels. In Australia, 41% of respondents to a RunRepeat survey said they had cancelled or were considering cancelling their gym membership, and in Brazil, working out at home has increased by 94% according to data from wearable device company Polar, with some gyms loaning equipment to members. 

In Mexico, Marti activewear saw a 500% jump in online sales for some categories in April 2020, and in June 2020 Lululemon acquired US start-up Mirror (a home-workout system that connects with trainers virtually) for $500m, signalling the potential of the at-home fitness market. As more people focus on improving their overall health, there will be more opportunities to recruit a new wave of customers for active apparel and outdoor-wear, especially via e-commerce.

These new fitness consumers’ values are in stark contrast to the trend-focused Millennials who have shaped the sector over the past decade. This is a much more fragmented and value-focused spend, and it will be key to appeal to active novices across all ages and income demographics.

Brand action points:
  1. Create products that contain immune-supporting natural ingredients and adaptogens, geared for regular use to maximise benefits
  1. Develop self-cleaning materials and technologies for the home – these can be applied to products such as cat litter trays or rubbish bins
  1. Incorporate UV light in products and appliances to disinfect homewares
  1. Develop apps that provide a more holistic view of health and the ability to fight infection. Apps that give points for wellness-boosting regimes and create an overall immunity score will have a strong appeal
  1. Create a simplified entry-level active and outdoor-wear offer that is age- and size-inclusive. Those at the older end of Gen X and young Boomers are looking to shed weight and reduce vulnerability to viruses

For more on consumer drivers for the next 18-24 months, read The Value Shift, a whitepaper from WGSN.