What Do LOHAS Shoppers Want?

LOHAS consumers, or members of the segment that leads a Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability when it comes to the foods they put in their body, the things they put on their body and what they put their body into, present a strong opportunity for retailers who are willing to cater to their demands, according to a speaker last week at the Healthy Foods International Exposition and Conference.

DALLAS — LOHAS consumers, or members of the segment that leads a “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” when it comes to the foods they put in their body, the things they put on their body and what they put their body into, present a strong opportunity for retailers who are willing to cater to their demands, according to a speaker here last week at the Healthy Foods International Exposition and Conference.

Maryellen Molyneaux, president of the Natural Marketing Institute, described the 40 million members of the segment as brand-loyal and not price-sensitive. LOHAS consumers also typically spend two to three times as much as other consumers in categories where healthy and sustainable options are prevalent.

“This is the customer you want,” Molyneaux told retailer attendees. “When you've got them convinced that you've got the benefit that they want, or the taste they want or the shopping experience they want, you'll have them for a lifetime. They are very, very loyal and, even better than that, they influence the rest of the marketplace.”

Molyneaux credits members of the segment with bridging the gap between organic foods and the mainstream.

In 2001, 70% of organic food users were LOHAS shoppers, and in 2007 only 30% were LOHAS shoppers.

“This doesn't mean there are less LOHAS consumers eating organic, it just means there are more mainstream consumers using organic, because LOHAS [consumers] have helped mainstreamers by being grassroots influencers,” said Molyneaux.

She encouraged retailers interested in courting members of the segment to adopt a holistic approach.

“It's not about one thing you do, it's about everything you do,” she said. “These consumers demand the best — not only when it comes to healthy options, but corporate citizenship. This has very much to do with a store's overall corporate messaging.”

LOHAS consumers spend 133% more in Whole Foods stores than members of other consumer groups, according to Molyneaux. These consumers also prefer shopping at Safeway, Target and Costco stores.

“Safeway has done a very good job of attracting its consumers and making its messaging meaningful across the store, across reporting activities and across promotions,” said Molyneaux.

Wal-Mart stores, on the other hand, attract fewer members of the LOHAS segment.

“It's because there is a big gap between what [Wal-Mart] says, what they do and what the consumer perceives they do,” said Molyneaux. “There is an amazing amount of information that can help [these consumers] at the brand and retail level.”

Instead, segments of shoppers labeled by NMI as “Naturalites” and “Unconcerned” when it comes to sustainability, are more likely to spend money there, said Molyneaux.

Naturalites comprise 19% of the adult consumer population. Members of the group are more interested in personal health than in the effects their decisions may have on the planet. They spend less than LOHAS consumers and have lower incomes, but “they are a great secondary target” when it comes to merchandising sustainable products, stressed Molyneaux.

About 17% of shoppers are Unconcerned when it comes to sustainability. “The reasons might be age, income or that these consumers just don't care,” said Molyneaux.

Also tracked by NMI is a group it refers to as “Drifters.” About 25% of consumers fall into this mainstream group, whose members are known for drifting in and out of LOHAS-type activity.

“Members are very driven by trends, and they present huge opportunities when it comes to CFLs [compact fluorescent lightbulbs], recycling and eating healthy foods,” said Molyneaux. “They're becoming more LOHAS-like.”

Not considered a good target for LOHAS products are “Conventional” shoppers. Members of this group, which comprises nearly one in five shoppers (19%), do engage in ecologically friendly activities, but only when it's convenient for them.