Top NMI health and wellness trends: Part I

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Health

As health, wellness and sustainability in the food sector continue
to move into the mainstream, market research firm Natural Marketing
Institute (NMI) has identified eight major trends it expects will
drive these sectors.

NMI is due release full information later this month, but the group gave a brief presentation of the eight trends - and their countertrends - to attendees at Expo West in Anaheim, California, last week. provides a two-part summary of the top trends for 2008, which are expected to have a long-term impact through 2015 and beyond. The Dual Society ​NMI managing partner Steve French said the concept of a 'dual society' is the overarching theme in the health and wellness arena. According to the market researcher, "the concept of a unified America has given way to bifurcation across many aspects of society including income, education, religious values, the environment, politics and even a stratification across health behaviors and attitudes, as the healthiest and the least healthy segments continue polarization.​" The healthiest group of US consumers comprises around 25 percent of the nation's population - or over 50m American adults. It is this group that continues to drive health and wellness, said French. However, there are almost just as many consumers at the other end of the spectrum, with 23 percent of the population falling into the 'Eat, Drink and Be Merry' sector. The countertrend identified for the 'dual society' trend is technology, which continues to be the "great societal equalizer",​ according to NMI. Examples include Web 2.0 initiatives, social networks and social collaboration. Generation Zzzzz ​Sleep disorders have emerged as a major problem for today's consumer, opening up a whole new area of opportunity for the functional food, beverage and dietary supplement industries. According to NMI president Maryellen Molyneaux, today's consumers aged 25-45 are an "over-stimulated, burned-out generation",​ who experience sleep disorders that lead to an array of health problems people may not even be aware of - such as reduced immunity and stress. Generation Z represents consumers that have come to sleep less than seven hours per night, surviving on caffeine-packed energy drinks and sleeping pills, said NMI. Overall, about 20 percent of the population says it is currently managing sleeplessness, according to Molyneaux. This new movement is also linked to the growing realization by corporations that health and wellness is an important factor to increasing productivity of their employees. Some 80 percent of respondents to an NMI survey said they do not have sufficient energy to do all they want. Over half said they would seek healthy products to prevent or treat a lack of energy, while 35 percent said they seek products that provide sustained energy. "This shows a growing opportunity for energy products for sustained energy - it's not about the blast, it's about the balance,"​ said Molyneaux. The countertrend to Generation Z is the consumer segment seeking relaxation tools through alternative medicine, meditation, a reduced schedule and a simplified lifestyle. Stop, I want off! ​This trend is linked into the Generation Z countertrend, and has emerged from the growing number of consumers saying "enough already​". "People are busy, they want instant gratification, and this is driving a movement to scale back, to opt out of the current consumer culture​," said Molyneaux. This movement ranges from a reduction in working hours to a renewed focus on 'quality versus quantity', and even a rejection of technology. People are also willing to give up dollars, as they have started to recognize the 'price-tag' for such a lifestyle. The countertrend reveals people rejecting conspicuous consumption while the other end of the spectrum continues to embrace luxury, premiumization and 24/7 connectivity. Giving is the new taking ​ According to NMI, volunteerism, activism and participation in the non-profit sector are growing rapidly as consumers discover the emotional rewards of giving rather than taking. "To meet the challenge, corporations are engaging in CSR 2.0 (Corporate Social Responsibility) in order to maintain brand allegiance, retain their workforce, and manage their stakeholders, among other activities,"​ said the research group. The countertrend is that premiumization - "the height of New Luxury"​ - continues to evolve in strong contrast to a more values-based, philanthropic culture. At times, premium brands are even co-opting 'green values', said NMI. More trends ​ will tomorrow summarize the next four trends identified by NMI, including 'Dr Me', 'The Culture of Sustainability', 'Golden Opportunities', and 'The New Immunity'.

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