Wellness with Benefits

Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Like so many industries today, the wellness sector has shifted toward personalization. Where once consumers happily took a one-a-day to cover their bases, now they seek benefit-specific ingredients, including those for increased energy, mental acuity, and cosmetic reasons. Many wellness brands go so far as to tailor ingredients based on consumers’ DNA or blood testing. In other words, wellness today is all about customizable functionality, rather than universality.

According to the consumer research group Mintel, 53% of consumers aged 25-34 seek vitamins, minerals, or supplements that provide an energy boost, while 42% of 18-24 year-olds want VMS products that bring the beauty. Popular ingredient-benefit pairings include Valerian root for sleep, green tea for weight loss, cinnamon to manage blood sugar, and seaweed for joint health. And don’t forget the honey for everything from gut health to skin care to an immune boost. But as consumers rush toward customized functional wellness, users and producers alike must be cognizant of potential dangers, such as over farming.

Just as increased fish consumption can deplete species — (Eco-Watch reports that 59% of fish from the Mediterranean are being pushed to dangerously low levels, thanks to increased human consumption.) — so too can wellness ingredients. Vice recently reported that increased popularity of Omega-3-packed fish oil is wreaking havoc on the oceanic eco-system: in addition to reducing fish populations, our appetite drains the natural food chain, putting sharks, dolphins and other aquatic life at risk. That said, if the wellness industry and humans in general want to survive, manufacturers must keep pace — and that means going above and beyond just sustainability.

No doubt sustainability is a must in any industry today. It’s responsible and consumers demand it: Nielsen found last year that almost half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would “definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment,” a sentiment that has grown sustainable product sales by 20% since 2014. And sustainability’s particularly important in wellness. This is an industry built around improvement and betterment for the long haul, after all; sustainability is, in that way, a form of wellness itself. But sustainability is flawed in that it’s essentially about breaking even. Thus, the most responsible brands, wellness or otherwise, have to go one step further than standard sustainability. And many are — with regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture’s far more comprehensive than sustainability. The Regenerative Organic Alliance defines this approach as “a holistic agriculture certification encompassing robust, high-bar standards for ensuring soil health and ecological land management, pasture-based animal welfare, and fairness for farmers and workers.” By replenishing the soil, fostering biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions, improving water cycles, and combating animal cruelty and unfair labor practices, regenerative agriculture takes a broad view for the greater good.

Though still niche, regenerative agriculture has gained some powerful champions: Brands such as Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s, Annie’s, Maple Hill Creamery, and Danone have established their own regenerative agriculture programs. For example, Patagonia’s sub-brand, Patagonia Provisions, creates an ale from a grain called Kernza, a perennial whose long roots require less tilling, resulting in less soil degradation. Meanwhile, Maple Hill practices planned grazing to encourage soil regeneration and combat carbon emissions. Taken together, these and similar regenerative efforts guarantee a better product today and a better planet tomorrow.

With these compelling results, regenerative agriculture is definitely something producers should brag about, just as they do their organic certification. This own-horn-tooting may seem self-congratulatory to some, but such labelling is essential to winning consumers’ hearts and wallets: a 2018 Transparency Imperative survey found 75% of shoppers will switch from their standard product to one with a more transparent label, up from 39% in 2016.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports found that a whopping 86% of Americans say it’s important animals are treated humanely in making their products; and a 2017 Response Media survey found 70% of consumers' purchase decisions are influenced by product transparency. (Almost 100% said they would pay more for more transparency.) In other words, if your product – whether wellness or otherwise — has a clear, honest story to share, it should.

By taking these and similarly responsible approaches, wellness brands not only earn consumers’ trust — they guarantee the latest trend doesn’t deplete the planet for tomorrow’s next big thing — and that’s wellness with benefits for us all.