As the discipline of shopper marketing has matured over the past decade, significant resources have been invested in understanding just what exactly drives shoppers to choose one brand over another.
In the realm of health & wellness, the conventional wisdom has always been that while consumers say they want healthier options, price remains the dominant factor in purchase decisions.
We think this is a fundamental misreading of the data—and of how consumers think about health & wellness.
Here's one recent example:
In a May feature story in Fortune magazine about "big food," the magazine conducted research with consumers about their food preferences.
The data unequivocally shows that Americans (77%) are trying to eat healthier than in the past and that they want foods that are free from pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.
However, Fortune then concludes: "But price still rules."
When asking consumers what factor is most important when purchasing groceries, a plurality (42.4%) said price. A plurality. What the headline ignores is that nearly 58% of consumers said price wasn't the most important factor. For this majority, nutrition, the absence of additives, calorie content, and carbon footprint were more important.
That list of factors could easily be summarized as how healthy a product is and how sustainable a product is.
What Fortune could have—and, perhaps, should have—concluded is that more Americans care about the healthfulness and sustainability of their foods than care about the price.
This interpretation is supported by data from Nielsen’s 2015 Global Health & Wellness Survey, which surveyed 30,000 consumers and found that 88% of them are willing to pay more for healthier foods. What is perhaps most impressive about this statistic is that the willingness to pay more for healthy foods cut across all demographics, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.
James Russo, SVP of Global Consumer Insights, offered a perspective on why consumers have shifted in their willingness to pay for healthier foods:
This is a critical distinction for marketers of healthy brands. The more educated consumers become about the role that diet plays in health, the more willing they are to pay a premium for those foods.
Whether you are managing a mature brand in a highly competitive category or an upstart natural food fighting for brand awareness and trial, education is the key.
Health-conscious consumers want more information, not less, and the brands that provide highly relevant content that supports the health & wellness bona fides of their product will earn their way into the shopping carts of those consumers.