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Emerging Consumer Trends - Health Mania

DH Vancouver Staff Oct 24, 2013 7:52 am

For many Lower Mainland consumers, health awareness is no longer limited to a healthy diet and physical activity, but also extends towards their relationships with businesses. Products and services that comply with a holistic healthy lifestyle and high safety standards are prized, and companies are expected to proactively rise to meet those challenges. Naturally stemming from this are the various health movements that have evolved from niche trends to mainstream and the large range of products making up the new “Health Mania”.


Health Mania

Image: BDC

A Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) report released this week revealed that general health awareness has grown across the board, but is most predominant among seniors (65 years old and older), and their prolonged vitality has become a key priority. Estimates are that by 2031, 25 percent of Canadians, roughly 9 million people, will be over the age of 65, compared to 14 percent today. With significant purchasing power, this aging population represents an interesting target for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A recent BDC-Ipsos survey found that while half of Canadians consider the health impact of products when purchasing, one in three claimed that they would be willing to pay a premium for those benefits.

Canadians are now more concerned with what they eat

Studies have found that sheer health awareness by Canadian consumers has contributed to a transformation in food demand. Canadians have shifted consumption of process fruits and vegetables for example, to fresh produce and the like. Specialty, natural and organic products continue to maintain strong sales, with an emphasis on local, “green” products.

Sales of bottled water, tea, and sports drinks have benefitted substantially as consumers move away from carbonated and concentrated drinks.

Breakfast, the often over-looked morning meal, has seen a resurgence with fewer people skipping, and particularly protein-rich foods such as yogurt and nuts seeing a bump in sales.

Weight management is still gaining ground

With the rise of chronic diseases, as well as incidences of cancer and various other health-related scares, the need for healthier lifestyle choices has never weighed more heavily on peoples collective consciousness.

Ironically, the number of clinically obese people in Canada has also never been higher, and as a result weight management and the market surrounding it has seen steady growth over the years, reaching a value of $189 million in 2012.

The sector has been mainly driven by meal replacement products, that had a 5 percent growth last year, represented 81 percent of revenues at about $35 million. Being “easy-to-use” is widely attributed for their popularity, though as of late, they have seen an emergences as supplements to daily nutritional intake as well.

Health Monitoring Tools 

Empowering consumers to monitor their own health has been a huge push over years, with devices that intelligently track fitness activity or vital signs stepping into the spot light. Many SMEs have introduced devices that monitor vitals such as body weight, sleep patterns, heart rate and glucose levels, to name a few.

These devices represent roughly four out of every 10 dollars spent on weight loss and diet management. Augmented features that tie in with smartphone apps and/or cloud services help motivate consumers, and definitely stand out in the market. The addition of those apps alone totalled and estimated $1.3 billion in 2012.

Health and Wellness Services/Tourism Growing

Spas, medical tourism packages and customized food/drinks, such as gluten-free and vegan menus have seen huge increases in demand as consumers flock to that which sounds health conscious but requires minimal effort.

Niche sports go Mainstream

Sportwear sales, especially those that are sport-inspired clothing for non-sports activities, such as the local Lululemon, have continued to rise as traditional niche sports go mainstream. Sportswear sales in Canada accounted for sales of $5.4 billion in 2012.

Running, cycling, football and soccer, and the performance footwear and clothing for each respectively, are major market drivers. Stats from the U.S. also showed that high-endurance activities such as marathons, obstacle courses, and ironman triathlons have seen a rise as well.  In some interesting numbers, the participation percentile was highest among the 35-to-44 age group, at 31 percent.

Strategies for SMEs

More and more, businesses that provide new solutions or adapt their products and services to meet the public’s desire for a healthier lifestyle are poised to reap significant benefits. On the flip side, this trend could hurt businesses whose services and products are seen as unhealthy, such as fast food.

Minimize consumer effort

Companies looking to adapt their products and services to health-conscious consumers’ needs should make them as effortless as possible to use. This can help overcome consumer resistance. For example, a health-conscious cleaning product should be as easy to use as its traditional alternative.

Increase motivation for tasks considered difficult

The growth of the health and wellness market is good news for SMEs that design, manufacture or sell innovative devices or services to monitor vital signs or fitness. By addressing factors that could affect users’ motivation, companies can encourage adoption.

Tailor products, services and marketing

SMEs that modify their offerings to reflect the health and wellness trend can differentiate themselves from their competitors. They are also more likely to increase their margins. The key to success lies in product messaging, especially if the product already has health benefits that have not been actively promoted. Communications highlighting the health properties will help potential buyers understand the product’s benefits. This approach can help propel a business from a stagnant sector into a new one with significant growth prospects.

Seize growth opportunities in the spa and resort sector

SMEs in the spa and resort sector are likely to see continued growth. Spa services in Canada currently account for over three-quarters of the revenues in the health and wellness tourism sector, with hotel/ resort spa facilities generating 61 percent of the revenues. The repositioning of gyms and spas as destinations for hotel visitors is expected to fuel continued expansion in the sector. With many people seeking ways to relieve stress and 80 percent of Canadian baby boomers planning to travel in retirement, this trend is likely to gain further traction.

Leverage all potential uses for products

SMEs looking to make the most of the weight management trend can capitalize on all of the potential uses for their products. Health-conscious consumers who want to boost their daily nutritional intake are one example. Consumers often find alternative uses for a product. By keeping a close eye on emerging developments, companies can capitalize on them early. For example, a company could encourage consumers to share their “unusual” use of a product on social media.

Focus on innovation or minimalism in the sportswear industry

To remain profitable, sportswear SMEs should develop highly innovative or very minimalist products. Companies that offer mid-range products are likely to see limited growth. This trend may also apply to other industries trying to satisfy the health-conscious consumer. A targeted approach to this distinct group could help to differentiate a company.


Stay locked to Vancity Buzz for our continued, week-long coverage of BDC Small Business Week, and the five consumer trends shaping the future of Canadian business.

Featured Image: Hamburguesaconqueso / Shutterstock

DH Vancouver Staff
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