It’s been a big year for the health & wellness industry. Thanks to the sudden hard-hitting pandemic, the industry has gone into overdrive, evolving at a rapid pace thanks to changes in demand.

As the world continues to struggle between variants and the race to quickly disseminate vaccines, dynamic trends are to be expected, which means it’s crucial to stay at the top of things.

With 2021 more than halfway through, we examine the current trends and projected developments for this niche, for publishers to maximize ROI in Nutra.


The Concept of Wellness

Back in the days, the concept of wellness was primarily linked to fitness and nutrition. However, the consumers of today have a much wider spectrum of products and services. According to a McKinsey wellness survey, consumers of today associate wellness across six different dimensions. They are namely: health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness.

While consumers in different countries surveyed by McKinsey have varied responses, health is consistently important across all countries. However, depending on the country, different dimensions are favoured. Consumers in Germany prioritize fitness, respondents in Brazil lean towards mindfulness and those in the United Kingdom focus more strongly on nutrition. 

Key Niches:

1) Health 

Traditionally the oldest and most prioritized dimension, consumers are increasingly taking active control of their health into their own hands. Technology has been a core driver for healthcare, with the rise in digital data-driven applications or devices enabling consumer self empowerment. The rise of home monitoring tools to track or measure across the spectrum is just one innovation that feeds desire and demand.

The demand for portability and convenience has set off a new segment of products.  Home test kits that can discover or diagnose food sensitivities, blood glucose or thyroid levels have steadily become a mainstay in the modern consumer’s bag. 

2) Fitness

Fitness goals have not eluded the average consumer especially during the pandemic. Restrictions have triggered significant shifts in physical activity levels. Many struggle to maintain pre-COVID-19 fitness levels with around 40% of people being less active. However the rise in creative digital offerings have grown to meet consumers needs. Brands offering home workouts via on demand streaming classes or gyms offering equipment rentals have stepped in to virtually change the fitness landscape. 

3) Nutrition

Consumers are now looking beyond taste, and into how well food can help to achieve personal goals. According to Google, search interest for ‘vegan meals’ and ‘vegan recipes’ have grown 58% and 40% year on year respectively in the United Kingdom. This demand for functional food has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Being conscious of what they eat has led to healthier options particularly in bread. Gluten free options are just a start, portion sizes, low carb and even keto alternatives are offered by brands to consumers who are on the lookout. 

The pandemic had led to many consumers questioning their immune health and vulnerability towards illnesses and diseases. This has prompted the increase in intake of immunity boosting foods including vitamins and supplements. 

4) Appearance

On the eternal quest of looking young, consumers are hopping onto athleisure offerings and skincare products. The pandemic hasn’t been much of a setback for this niche either. In Germany, it’s reported that 86% of consumers spent the same amount of time on their beauty and grooming routines as compared to pre-COVID.

As the beauty industry moves forward, more emphasis is on enhancing these routines. Tapping into emotional and functional needs, beauty products are now evolving to be extra personalised. An example would be Finnish beauty brand Erisan+, having an immunity-boosting range of natural skin care products made with prebiotics.  

5) Sleep

Pandemic and well-being worries have definitely amounted to a load of stress for consumers. The desire for more products and services to meet the need for higher-quality slumber have given rise to alternative markets.

Besides the age-old British panacea for sleep deprivation, chamomile tea, alternatives are now desired. Relaxing scents, diffusers, and pillows are popular options. Consumer interest in reducing stress with adaptogens also grew by 55% in 2020, with the usage of mushrooms and herbs like ginseng.  

6) Mindfulness

As the stigma over mental illness has gradually reduced, reports of mental distress have increased globally. In the United States alone, anti-anxiety prescriptions grew 34% between mid-February and mid-March 2020. Currently, relaxation and meditation applications are highly sought after, with more than half of consumers surveyed by McKinsey indicating a strong preference for more such products to be readily available.

1) Digitalisation

One of the key drivers of today’s economy, be it with or without the pandemic, is digitalisation. As many businesses shift to a digital-first perspective, the same can be said for the average shopper. Changing consumer behaviours are guided by the advent of online shopping.  Physical stores are replaced with virtual ones as consumers take inspiration from not just organic searches but social media content as well. A good 70% of consumers proceeded with a purchase just from watching YouTube videos.

2) Home Fitness 

A report by YPulse brings some insights on the growing importance of homes from the perspective of Gen-Z and Millennials. Homebody tendencies have been observed for the age groups even prior to the pandemic with 67% of those aged 19-37 staying in rather than heading out on weekends. Shifts brought about by the pandemic have skewed in favour of the homebody tendency with 83% being comforted in their homes during the pandemic. As much as 71% indicate the enjoyment of being able to spend additional time at home.

While the home continues to bring comfort and solace, the demand for home improvements surges. 64% are more interested in home improvement now than pre-COVID. It’s not just home offices and kitchens they are looking to furnish, but fitness space and equipment as well.

A global consumer insights survey by PwC concurs, with the increase in online shopping to 23% in June 21 as compared to 19% in March. Consumers are more health conscious, with those working at home reported being healthier (55%) than those working away from home (45%). The health conscious consumers are expected to spend more in related categories like groceries; health & beauty and sports/fitness equipment. 

3) Ethical Buying

This trend continues with regards to environmental sensitivity. Those working from home (61% on average) appear to shop more sustainably than those working away (50.8% on average), to the extent of which eco credentials are checked. Of those who indicate less interest in sustainable shopping, 44% are deterred by higher price points. Members of the less eco friendly group were found to be working away from home and are largely driven by convenience.

A brand’s eco-friendly practices has an impact on consumer loyalty, but surprisingly sustainability is not among the top drivers. In a ranking of 12, the first went to reliability while ethical practices and sustainable practices were in fifth and seventh place. Although not all are becoming eco friendly, millennials in particular are leaning towards eco-friendly behaviours by favouring transparent brands.  

Likewise, in the European Union, millennials are an essential part of the consumer economy trend. Amounting to 24% of the population , they have comparatively stronger incomes in Germany, United Kingdom and France. Male shoppers notably, are mimicking traditionally female behaviours in the beauty and cosmetics industry. This demand for male-centric products has prompted exclusive male collections in the face of the beauty-conscious men. 

In the United Kingdom, search interest in sustainability varies between cities. According to Google, smaller cities like Bristol; Manchester; Brighton; Cambridge; Oxford; and Exeter rather than London are leading the way. 

Compared to the global average, the Dutch appear to be less concerned with sustainability. Similar to the average consumer, a high price point (27%) is still a deterring factor. While looking at brand loyalty drivers, the Dutch consider brand integrity to be a dealbreaker at 25% while ethical conduct occupies only 10%. Likewise when comparing data health security, the Dutch are less concerned (31%) as compared to the global average at 46%. Specifically only 31% of those in the Netherlands are data conscious as opposed to 59% of respondents in Eastern Europe.  

Additionally, consumers are increasingly shopping with brands that align with their personal values. This is apparent from Google’s search interest for “ethical brands” and “ethical online shopping”, which grew 300% and 600% year on year respectively in 2020. 


As brands continue to navigate the incessantly evolving needs of consumers, the global wellness market continues to offer growth. With the pandemic hopefully coming to a close, consumer behaviours might shift to allow new room for alternative markets. 

One market to note is the better-for-you food products that are gaining demand with the adverse effects of the coronavirus. Forecasted to hit US $183.7 billion by 2026, the market has great potential especially in the Asia Pacific region. 

Consumers cannot be treated as beginners at this stage, as brands should utilise the chance to connect with them throughout the entire product lifecycle. For more specific tips, check out our previous article to learn all about the Switzerland GEO and here to understand YouTube as a Marketer. 

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