For its latest Future of Wellness report, the global consulting firm surveyed over 5,000 consumers across China, the United Kingdom and the United States to examine the trends shaping the consumer wellness landscape.
"[W]e found that people continue to prioritize their health and wellness, with 82% of consumers in the U.S. reporting that wellness is a top or important priority in their everyday lives," Anna Pione, partner at McKinsey & Company and author on the report, told NutraIngredients-USA. "The biggest shift from prior years is the degree to which efficacy and clinical backing has become top of mind for consumers."
McKinsey identified five main trends across growth areas that converge to define consumer demand for personalized, data-driven, AI-assisted solutions that promote clinically proven ingredients recommended by reliable sources.
Making sense of personalized data and the AI boost
Since 2020, at-home testing has become the new normal with consumers expressing interest in being able to evaluate their health status in other areas with the same convenience. According to the Future of Wellness survey results, "26% of U.S. consumers are interested in testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies at home, 24% for cold and flu symptoms and 23% for cholesterol levels."
McKinsey recommends that companies consider the price-value equation to remove the cost barrier to at-home diagnostic kits, create consumer feedback loops for actionable solutions and help users understand their test results.
Consumers are also increasingly tracking their data through biomonitoring and wearables, an area that is evolving rapidly with the advent of breakthrough technologies. While currently focused on areas like sleep and blood sugar monitoring, McKinsey says there are gaps to fill in nutrition, weight management and mindfulness (for example, a wearable that tracks cortisol spikes to gauge stress levels).
And, with this personalized data comes a preference for personalized wellness products and services, which the report suggested will be increasingly met with generative AI.
Avoiding 'healthwashing' with clinically proven ingredients
McKinsey also noted the continued consumer shift away from wellness products with clean or natural claims towards science-backed ingredients.
"Roughly half of UK and U.S. consumers reported clinical effectiveness as a top purchasing factor, while only about 20% reported the same for natural or clean ingredients," according to the report. "This trend is most pronounced in categories such as over-the-counter medications and vitamins and supplements."
Some brands will be able to emphasize existing products in their portfolios, McKinsey said, but others may have to rethink product formulations and strategy. This does not necessarily mean pivoting away from the clean ingredients but rather substantiating claims with third-party certifications or research studies, using clinically tested ingredients or securing recommendations from qualified experts.
In response to the proliferation of influencer marketing of the next best wellness fad, data indicated that shoppers are "no longer simply trying out these wellness trends and hoping for the best" but turning to science and more traditional sources to guarantee the credibility of health advice and purchasing decisions.
“As consumers look to avoid 'healthwashing' (that is, deceptive marketing that positions a product as healthier than it really is), healthcare provider recommendations are important once again," the report noted.
McKinsey’s advice to brands: Consider the messenger and the messages that will resonate with consumers, whether doctor recommendations or social media advertising for mindfulness or personal trainer and family recommendations for fitness products.
Pockets of growth
The survey also identified growth areas ranging from women’s health and healthy aging to weight management and sleep—propelled by "increasing consumer interest, technological breakthroughs, product innovation and an increase in chronic illnesses".
For women’s health, McKinsey noted that the category has been historically "underserved and underfunded" but highlighted that demand for menstrual care, sexual health, menopause, pregnancy and fertility products is on the rise. Specifically, it drew attention to opportunities for disruptor brands to capitalize on the expanded cultural conversation about sexuality tied to issues including low libido, vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse.
A growing preference for preventative health solutions has also boosted interest in healthy aging and longevity products, with the survey showing that 70% of UK and U.S. consumers and 85% of Chinese consumers across ages reported buying more products in the category in the past year than in prior years.
"To succeed in this market, companies can take a holistic approach to healthy-aging solutions, which includes considerations about mental health and social factors," the report advised. "Bringing products and services to market that anticipate the needs of aging consumers—instead of emphasizing the aging process to sell these products—will be particularly important."
In the U.S., where nearly a third of the population struggles with obesity, McKinsey said that consumers are focusing on in-person fitness to manage their weight but have also bought into the trend of GLP-1 weight loss drugs as a "very effective" intervention.
Other areas on trend include wellness mainstays gut health and sleep, however consumers expressed a need for more products in the market that effectively address their specific pain points.