Emerging health trends and how that affects product packaging

19 July 2018

The Healthcare and OTC markets continue to grow, but so do the desires and requirements of customers – from vegan dietary supplements, to technology influenced healthcare products. global data looks at the emerging trends that help shape the way companies develop and market their products for an ever increasing, and increasingly knowledgeable, consumer base.

The healthcare and over-the-counter (OTC) industry represents huge sales and shows no sign of slowdown as consumers become more health-conscious, and opt for OTC and healthcare products to help facilitate this mindset. However, the category faces challenges going forward, which will impact the product choices consumers make and the need for innovation. Value, trust and pill fatigue are some of the factors that may affect market performance.

Healthcare and OTC companies need to invent new, practical ways of presenting their products for on-the-go consumption, and there is a continued demand for medicines to come in pocket-sized packaging so consumers can take them while on the move. While the biggest threat faced by vitamins, minerals and supplements is the shift towards the use of functional food and drink instead of conventional pills and capsules as a mechanism to improve and maintain health. There is scepticism, however, around the effectiveness and trustworthiness of functional food and drink, and their high price points (due their high nutritional content) can also be off putting to those consumers who classify themselves as savers rather than spenders.

The good news is, as result of improving education levels and greater access to health information, consumers' health awareness has risen, which is the key driver in healthcare and OTC products. In 2017, the market value of OTC healthcare reached $141 billion worldwide, with Asia-Pacific, as the leading market, accounting for 36.1%, followed by North America (31%) and Europe (25.5%). In terms of future growth, Asia-Pacific is predicted to be the fastest growing market between 2017 and 2020, with a CAGR of 3.1%; second is Latin America (4.6%).

The growing ‘natural’ trend has driven consumers to turn to food and drink as a way to maintain and improve health. As a result, the market witnessed a boom in functional food and drink formulated and positioned to deliver a preventive or curative approach to health. This has posed a threat to OTC medication and supplement brands, but is has also inspired them to develop formula sourced from food ingredients that are naturally health-enhancing or create formats mimicking everyday food and drink. With these changes in the landscape in mind, we look at some of the trends that could be important for the industry going forward.

Trend one: plant power

The rise of plant-based formulas in functional food and drink as well as health supplements (often accompanied by natural claims) was triggered by the ongoing ‘natural’ trend across the whole fast-moving consumer goods space. GlobalData's latest survey, in the last quarter of 2017, showed that 69% of consumers around the world consider ‘healthy’ to mean ‘natural’. Consumers appear to prefer formulas that are naturally nutritious rather than those that are fortified with added nutrients. This gives a distinct advantage to health-enhancing, plant-based formulas due to their natural appeal.

Consumers' favourable perceptions of plant-based formulas are also evident from GlobalData's survey findings – 60% of consumers around the world consider botanicals or plant extracts to be beneficial to their health. Latin America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific are the main target markets for plant-based health products. These markets have a history of using herbal remedies in healthcare, which contributes to the popularity of plant-based health products.

Increased popularity of plant-based formula is also in line with the trending vegan/vegetarianism in recent years, which often associates with the preconceived idea that a plant-based approach to consumerism is beneficial to health, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Although the vegan/vegetarian community still constitutes a small percentage of the global population, there are a sizeable amount of consumers who claim to have adopted a low-meat diet. This means consumers are gradually accepting the idea of plant-based diets and trying to obtain nutrients from plant-based food where possible.

Within OTC medication, sports nutrition and health supplements, formulas now exist that are plant based up to and including the active ingredients. This is due to consumers seeking vegan alternatives to conventional formulations as a result of their concerns over having to sacrifice animal welfare in return for human health. One example of this would be the use of vegetarian capsules made with cellulose as opposed to gelatine capsule made from animal by-products.

An example of this is from the company Earthwater, who produce plant-based, adult multivitamin gummies using pectin instead of gelatine. The product is said to deliver an array of nutrients including vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B12, and zinc to support overall wellness, and is flagged as vegan, vegetarian, kosher; and free from, sugar, gluten and gelatine.

Trend two: mental health for women and millennials

Women and younger adults are key target audiences for products addressing mental wellbeing. Women are generally more likely to express concern about stress, overwork, insomnia and depression than their male counterparts. And as the workforce becomes more equal, more women are having to manage the stressful balancing act of a career and family life, which could lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed. This may contribute to their greater concern and awareness over mental health issues.

Younger consumers also tend to demonstrate concern over mental health issues, especially those aged 25–34. The top concerns for this group are stress and overwork, suggesting that work-related stress is what drives them to look for ways to improve their mental health. Whereas a substantial proportion of 18–24 year-olds are concerned about insomnia and depression. This group is more likely to consist of students in higher education or young workers who have just joined the workforce. Experiencing a new part of life creates excitement but also causes anxiety, which can result in insomnia or a depression if reality does not match expectations.

Moreover, although older people are generally considered to be most prone to memory loss, those aged over 65 are actually the least likely to express concern about this. This could be because the idea of memory loss is more worrying for those who have not retired.

This has led to the birth mental wellbeing products such as the Arepa health drink. Marketed with the tagline ‘created by neuroscience, sourced in nature’, New Zealand's ‘first beverage for the brain’ is said to be designed to support concentration and mood, and claims to reduce ‘brain fog, tension and fatigue, especially during stressful conditions’. Or New Chapter’s Fermented Black Seed Booster Powder, which claims to deliver a healthy mood, reduce stress and support memory with turmeric, lion's mane and botanicals.

Trend three: technology and health

Using digital health-monitoring tools reflects an active, affluent and technology-savvy lifestyle; they are perfect for those who care about their health, are always connected and always on the move. This lifestyle is being reflected by products such as the Polar A370 fitness tracker watch. It offers an all-round digital service by constantly monitoring the user’s heart rate, tracking their sleep patterns, and offering unique workout features to make the most of their exercise.

Another part of life being affected by advancing technology is demonstrated in the Ava Fertility Tracker, a bracelet for women who want to monitor their health for trying to conceive or getting to know their bodies. According to the company, its sensors collect data on nine different physiological parameters when the user is sleeping, with the app then assessing factors such as fertility window and sleep quality. Users of such devices may use the information to inform purchases of fertility supplements.

And of course, sleep tracking products, such as Nokia Sleep, which is a sleep sensing and home automation pad that claims to offer sleep cycle analysis (deep, light and REM), heart rate tracking and snore detection. Technology such as this would work well with sleeping aid products for consumers wanting to track the progress of their sleep quality while using sleep aid remedies.

Trend four: fitness for health and appearance

With over half (54%) of global consumers exercising daily or several times a week, there is high demand for products that help consumers stay active and healthy. Reducing the risk of disease and supporting general health is the number one motivation for consumers to exercise; however, looking and feeling good comes second, which indicates how much consumers are concerned about feeling better physically and psychologically. Products with health-enhancing claims will likely rise in demand as consumers are showing a keen interest in purchasing food, drinks and personal care products specifically designed to help them stay fit and healthy.

With looks and appearance being highly important, it is unsurprising that muscle tone is a concern for many consumers. However, only 17% of consumers buy products especially designed for this issue. As demand exists for muscle-toning products, considering consumers' stated interest in using such products to address their concerns, manufacturers need to develop products targeting this need and clearly communicate the benefits to consumers.

Consumers, generally, tend to seek products that help them feel and look good. However, consumers aged 18–34 years old show more interest in improving their appearance than other age groups. To reach young buyers, brands need to launch campaigns targeted at them specifically or have their products endorsed by trusted sports organisations or professional athletes. Also, sponsoring sport activities or distributing free samples in sport and health centres will help catch young consumers' attention.

Consumers in Central and South America, as well as the Middle East and Africa, also show higher concern about improving their looks. Manufacturers need to consider tailoring products to attract consumers from these regions.

Protien drinks have long been a popular market in this area. Trimino’s protein-infused water is a low-calorie protein drink that is said to maintain and replenish muscle to support toning, support energy and endurance, and curb appetite

A different product also targeting health and beauty is Burt's Bees Protein + Healthy Radiance. The product contains 15 grams of plant-based protein and a third of a cup of fruits and vegetables in each serving. It also contains antioxidants – vitamins A, C and E. The comprehensive formula aims to attract shoppers with the idea of ‘promoting beauty from within’, with the popular plant-based protein as a featured ingredient to give the product a trendy edge.

Trend five: nutritious and delicious

Healthcare pproducts can be made more appealing by being given a variety of flavours, as supplements, vitamins and minerals in the traditional pill format are becoming outdated, especially for younger consumers, who exert strong interest in trying food and drinks in unusual flavours and formats. Some healthcare companies have started mixing more exotic herbs and fruits with their products, making them more appealing to those who are looking for new sensory experiences. Functional food and drink manufacturers can highly benefit from this trend by introducing ingredients that also have health benefits, such as cinnamon, pumpkin and blackberry.

It goes without saying that flavour makes healthcare products appealing to children, and nowadays, children have an increasing influence over a parents' decision in purchasing their food and drinks. However, the parents still make the final decision. Therefore, addressing parents' concerns is an important part of making a product child-friendly. Parents have many priorities when they look for healthcare products for their children, but the most important are flavour, natural ingredients and adherence to nutritional or allergy requirements.

Globally, nearly a third of parents pay high attention to the ingredients used in the products they buy for their children. Adding healthy ingredients that taste good increases the chances that a healthcare product will be successful, as both parents and children will be happy with it.

One such example is Nuun Vitamins’ Effervescent Tablet. This new vitamin tablet range comes in four flavours: blueberry and pomegranate, tangerine and lime, blackberry and citrus, and ginger and lemonade. The range of flavours makes the product appealing to consumers seeking more exotic tastes in vitamins and supplements.

The future

Many trends and practices will present themselves in the future and change the way healthcare brands think about and develop their products. Alternative medical practices are inspiring formulation, for example. Ayurvedic medicine, which is based on a system of medicine with historical roots in India, is now commonly seen in OTC healthcare, supplements and even functional food and drink. In the future, the market is likely to witness more of these practices from around the world being discovered, explored and modernised.

Technology will also play an expanding roll, with more consumers adopting a technological approach to maintaining and improving health. Brands can potentially offer OTC healthcare programs combining conventional OTC supplements or medication products with health-enhancing digital tools. For example, a supplement product made for tackling stress coupled with the use of a mindfulness app. This helps cross-promote the companies' OTC product lines as well as their technological capabilities.

Product specificity will grow and develop, targeting not just functions (indigestion) or a specific group (aged over 50), but products will also move towards targeting specific occasions (non-drowsy, stomach-friendly cold and flu relief designed for working days), or consumers going through a specific life stage (working mothers in need of a one-off nutritional supplement to improve physical and mental wellbeing).

“As result of improving education levels and greater access to health information, consumers' health awareness has risen, which is the key driver in healthcare and OTC products.”

“Increased popularity of plant-based formula is also in line with the trending vegan/vegetarianism in recent years, which often associates with the preconceived idea that a plant-based approach to consumerism is beneficial to health, animal welfare and environmental sustainability.”

“Brands can potentially offer OTC healthcare programs combining conventional OTC supplements or medication products with health-enhancing digital tools. For example, a supplement product made for tackling stress coupled with the use of a mindfulness app.”

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