Health & wellness categories ranging from organic to plant-based and other better-for-you claims were already performing strongly coming into 2020, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on consumers’ shopping behavior this year has spurred unprecedented sales and demand.
In our latest SN Off the Shelf podcast, Jeff Crumpton, manager of retail reporting solutions at wellness-focused data research leader SPINS, shared his thoughts and insights on what’s been happening in the natural and wellness categories, including organic, plant-based, CBD, supplements and other claims-based products.
While consumers’ individual health and wellness during the pandemic may have been the catalyst for the sales increases, Crumpton believes that new shopping behaviors will continue even after COVID.
“I think all the evidence that we see that we continue to monitor month after month, indicates that natural, organic and all of these better-for-you product claims will continue to perform well,” he said. “I think part of this can be associated with the lack of clear guidance on a federal level, so consumers are really turning to trusted third-party certifications like non-GMO, plant-based, etc., to provide some reassurance that the products that they are purchasing actually do align with their strict requirements.”
He added, “We continue to see, for example, that organic products outperform non-organic products year over year. We're really confident that that trend is going to last. We've been limiting our routines, but we've also been really hyper-focused on purchasing wellness. That pattern of behavior that we're seeing is certainly going to imprint itself on how customers, how consumers choose products in the future.”
Certainly plant-based fits that bill, as a category that was growing even before COVID.
“Coming into 2020, we were already seeing strong growth for plant-based products,” said Crumpton. “Consumers are already familiar with plant-based milk and yogurts and some of the protein meat alternatives, but what the pandemic really did for that segment of the market, was really supercharge that growth. The plant-based brands already had a ton of innovation in their pipeline. When we started to see rising COVID cases, and all the news reports about meat processing plants starting to circulate, plant-based products were really positioned to be able to pick up the slack. Consumers purchased that. They really flocked to it.”
The rise of natural and better-for-you categories at traditional supermarkets has also contributed to the segment’s growth. Over the past year, traditional grocery chains have devoted more space, created store-within-a-store concepts and even launched separate banners for natural retail. For those retailers, Crumpton had some advice.
“It's critical to understand who their customer is and what that customer is looking for,” he said. “We know that different grocery stores have different demographics that shop their store. Adopting a one-size approach to their assortment isn't necessarily going to be the most impactful. It needs to be tailored to their core customer.”
“A retailer's most important asset, their in-store associate, is a critical piece that they need to make sure that they have educated,” Crumpton stressed. “When customers come into a store, they're looking for the associates to help them with these health & wellness products. Placing an item on the shelf that doesn't have a person that's knowledgeable to speak to the benefits just means that you have something gathering dust on the shelves. A knowledgeable associate is the key to executing your strategy successfully.”
During the podcast, Crumpton also talked about the rise of the frozen aisle in health & wellness, why CBD is down overall, the premiumization of the pet category and much more. Click below to listen now.