Exploding in the new millennium, a healthy lifestyle is in vogue. Now, more than ever before, consumers are focusing on the content of their food and getting off of the couch. Where was my food grown? How many calories have I burned today? Am I getting enough protein? Americans are now obsessed with lifestyle, but where did this all begin?
The Rise of the Health Obsession
During the first decade of the 2000’s, backlash against the food industry began to expose itself in books, television, and movies. Starting in 2001 with the release of Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation, which was adapted into film in 2006, media exposed truths behind the processing and nutritional value of the food that’s on our shelves and in our restaurants. Later films and books such as Supersize Me, Food, Inc., and Michael Pollan’s book series including In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma all gained national attention.
The health of the American people became a mainstream discussion. The concept of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), human antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, and synthetic food additives became household phrases. Generally deemed “unhealthy,” food saw an economic downturn, while the health industry saw quite the opposite. Despite the poor economic conditions of the mid- to late-2000’s consumers were still prioritizing health and cleaner eating. As reported in Fortune Magazine, since 2009, the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies have lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share. A major portion of this loss came from packaged food. For each of the past two years, the annual volume of packaged food sold in the U.S. has fallen more than 1 percent. Instead, consumers are turning to the organic food line. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales have more than tripled over the past decade. In 2014 alone, organic food sales increased by 11 percent.
However, it’s not just food that is changing. Consumers are more interested in supplemental nutrition and fitness as well. As of 2013, obesity is now considered a disease according to the American Medical Association. However, it rose to be a public concern long before then. Between 1986 and 2000, the prevalence of severe obesity quadrupled from one in every 200 Americans to one in every fifty. Commonly known causes of obesity are poor diet and physical inactivity and Americans have taken to tackling that problem. From 2000 to 2014, fitness center/health club memberships grew by 21.3 billion. Supplemental nutrition stores are now more popular than ever. In 2009, The Vitamin Shoppe went public, and shortly after in 2010, GNC stores started trading on the public market. Americans are looking to change their health all around, with diet, exercise, and proper nutrition.
So what does this mean for marketing?
A New Era of Communication
With a changing society comes a changing economy and with a changing economy comes a change in marketing. Society is shifting towards health and wellness, so industry must shift as well. Brands are changing their image, new products are being introduced on the shelf, and new companies are emerging as frontrunners. In the new millennium and growing technological age, we’ve seen health communication like never before.
Healthy menus, a changing grocery industry, health and fitness technology, as well as fad diet-and exercise have developed in this new economy. Access to health and fitness is on overload and every company and brand continues to try to out-market one another. Fast food and restaurant chains are fighting to change their image as the best for you, new diet and fitness fads market themselves as the quickest and easiest way to a healthier lifestyle, and technology evolves to make health simplest for you. Words such as “light”, “fit”, and “healthy” clog our airwaves, magazines, newspapers, and daily conversations. Health is now a communication strategy and companies are finding new ways to distinguish themselves.