Caution! It's More Information, Not Less.

One of our favorite adages is that health-conscious consumers want more information not less. They want to know what is in the food they eat and what is not in the food they eat. They want to know where it comes from, how it is made, and if it has functional benefits, how those work.

That's why we advise clients to build their healthy brand messaging around education—both about their product and the particular need-states it addresses.

Two recent news items put an even finer point on what is required of those marketing healthy brands in today's competitive health and wellness marketplace.

First, according to Nielsen, approximately 80% of consumers have adopted a “food as medicine” approach to eating, while The NPD Group found a quarter of U.S. adults are actively trying to manage their health through food.

So not only are health-conscious consumers more engaged in understanding the foods they choose to eat and not eat, but there are now more health-conscious consumers than ever. This places the burden squarely on healthy food brands to help educate these consumers, through clear communication of their ingredient labels, their nutritional credentials, and the role they play in a healthy lifestyle.

The second news item comes from a study by InsightsNow, which looked at consumers who InsightsNow describes as "clean label enthusiasts." These consumers are "85% more likely to say they’re proactive with their health than non-clean label enthusiasts." They are also willing to pay a premium for better-for-you products and are more diligent about getting their money's worth.

As Dave Lundahl, chief executive officer at InsightsNow, puts it: "They are looking for claim substantiation. They want to know they’re getting the real deal. This is a group that is ahead of the curve, so they’re going to tell which way people are moving."

Once again we see that healthy brands must go beyond just a simple "clean label" headline to explain what is and is not in the food, as well as substantiating any functional claims they are making.

As the trend toward healthy eating has grown, many brands have tried to jump on the bandwagon by simply creating a healthy halo around their brand. They prominently feature lifestyle imagery in their marketing (we call this "smiling faces going places") and use phrases like "living life to its fullest" or "helping you be all you can be." They will proudly trumpet that they are non-GMO or small batch or clean label. But the communication stops there.

Looking at the data, you can see that those type of superficial proclamations and approaches are not sufficient to persuade health-conscious consumers. That's why we are so fond of our well-worn adage that these consumers want more information not less. It's never been more true and these consumers are increasingly good at identifying which brands are up to their standards and which are not.