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Health in the spotlight

Expect protective health and wellness priorities to shape 2022 consumption habits

After nearly two years of living amidst a pandemic and its associated living and working restrictions, consumer preferences, priorities and behaviours have drastically shifted to align with their new habits, budgets and health and wellness needs.

In contrast to the whirlwind nature of COVID-19, consumers are being very strategic with their consumption choices. These consumers are seeking out experiences that offer personalization, convenience, and products that promote specific health benefits and/or ingredients. And 52% of Canadians are planning to increase their efforts towards living a longer, healthier life.

It all starts with understanding the baseline state of total health and wellness as it stands today. Despite mass vaccination efforts across countries, the world is still faced with a rapidly-spreading pandemic, with millions still being infected and impacted by COVID-19. However, the virus is just one force driving change in the global health and wellness landscape. In Q4 2021, NielsenIQ identified a five-pillared hierarchy of health and wellness needs in its Global Health and Wellness report, those being:

  • Protective: Protecting myself and/or my family members from immediate health threats.
  • Preservation: Improving my and/or my family’s current physical or emotional wellbeing and connections.
  • Aspirational: Proactive actions to achieve and maintain specific health goals, or helping to avoid ailments in the long term.
  • Evolving: Seeking out the latest alternatives or developments to continuously meet my and/or my family’s health and wellness goals.
  • Altruistic: Improving the world around me by advocating for environmental, ethical, humanitarian and/or philanthropic causes.

When looking at how Canadian consumers ranked these needs in terms of importance, protective needs were rated highest, by far, with 71% of Canadians prioritizing protective health actions and needs versus 63% of global consumers. Since Canadians are highly concerned with protecting themselves and their families from immediate health threats, it’s important for retailers to address these concerns through enhancements to their in-store and online shopping experiences, and for manufacturers to clearly educate health and wellness benefits and ingredients on product packages and through online attribute data.

Given the dramatic, pandemic-related boost in online shopping, individual health needs and concerns have been having a greater impact on shoppers’ purchase decisions versus brand loyalty. An example of this shift in behaviour: 81% of grocery searches on are unbranded, and we expect this to accelerate.

Shoppers are not only concerned with pandemic-related threats, but also factors such as allergies, intolerances, specific eating regimens/diets, and corporate sustainability efforts, and are seeking products that fit their priorities. To tap into the large segment of consumers focused on protective needs, it’s crucial for manufacturers to provide shoppers with thorough product attribute information online as well as on product packages and labels.

As shoppers visit brick-and-mortar stores with their omni-altered mindsets, they’re expecting a similar experience in terms of convenience and broader assortments. Both online and offline retailers need to ensure they’re offering diverse product assortments grouped by benefit (i.e. low-calorie, keto-friendly, cruelty-free) to capture the growing segment of attribute-first consumers. For brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s no secret that attracting shoppers has been a challenge due to COVID-19 concerns, so promoting a safe, sanitary and frictionless in-store experience will be key to capturing dollars as we combat rising infection rates. In addition, online and offline retailers should continue to focus on delivering positive and seamless omnichannel experiences that encourage shoppers to make repeat purchases. Lastly, expanding omni capabilities should be a top priority as click-and-collect and delivery gain further traction while consumers look to cut down time spent in-store shopping.

This column appeared in Canadian Grocer's February 2022 issue.

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