Marketplace Opportunities

Marketplace Opportunities:Growth & Demographic Opportunities

By Steve French and Gwynne Rogers© 2006, The Natural Marketing Institute(NMI)

Regular readers of the LOHAS Journal know that for the past four years, The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) has conducted primary consumer research on the LOHAS consumer. The objective of the research is to quantify and understand the portion of the U.S. population for whom environmental, social, and healthy lifestyle values play an important role in purchase decisions.

Based on an annual, nationally-projectable, consumer research study, NMI’s LOHAS Consumer Trends Database™ (LCTD)  has allowed NMI to generate a unique perspective on the evolution of consumer attitudes, and more specifically, how marketers can better understand these consumers, identify them, and communicate with them.

This article represents a “second installment” of the article published in the last issue, and will probe more deeply into the markets NMI covers and where the growth is.  Notably, NMI has seen growth in virtually all of the markets it researches.  This is indicative and consistent with other research and marketplace observations.


Figure 1.  Largest Increases in LOHAS Product Attribute Drivers

(% LOHAS consumers stating the following are very important in product purchase decisions)





Compound Annual Growth

Food & Beverage

Contains soy 7% 14% +100%
Organically grown 25% 40% +63%
No artificial colors 31% 47% >+50%
Locally grown 24% 34% +20%
Gives to charitable causes 21% 33% +23%
No genetically modified ingredients 38% 53% +21%
Recyclable packaging 35% 56% +21%
Fair Trade certified ingredients 25% 27% +20%
trans-fats 36% 48% +20%


Consumer packaged goods are the primary entry vehicle to the LOHAS marketplace.  Because of their low cost and ready availability, consumers have little to lose if they are interested in sampling.  Over the past four years, NMI’s LOHAS data shows primarily growth in LOHAS drivers to food and beverage purchases (Figure 1).

From soy to charitable donations to trans-fat free, LOHAS consumers state increased importance of each of these attributes – at least 20% more LOHAS consumers state their importance now versus two years ago. 

Notably, most of the product benefits are more readily available now then two years ago, indicating a mainstreaming effect.  LOHAS consumers are early adopters (61% state that they are usually the first to try new healthy foods and beverages, compared to just 26% of non-LOHAS consumers), therefore their opinions often herald the onset of a new trend.

True to form, non-LOHAS consumers are now playing catch-up for some of these attributes, such as trans-fats.  Interest among non-LOHAS consumers has doubled over the past three years, a faster growth rate than is evident among LOHAS consumers.  Similar patterns are evident in foods and beverages free of artificial ingredients, no preservatives,

Figure 2.  Differences in Drivers by Age

(% U.S. consumers by age stating the following are very important in product purchase decisions)

  Gen Pop 18-25  Gen Pop 66+
Contains soy   5%  11%
Organically grown 13% 16%
No artificial colors 9% 28%
Locally grown 9%  24%
Gives to charitable causes 6% 14%
No GM Ingredients 25% 28%
Recyclable packaging  19% 28%
Fair Trade certified ingredients  8% 20%
No trans-fats  18% 49%


The importance of these attributes also shows differences by age (Figure 2), with older consumers caring more about these benefits than younger consumers.  In fact, NMI has observed an alignment between the Boomer and LOHAS marketplaces for several years.  These data have significant implications on everything from product development (e.g., developing soy products with a taste profile that appeals to older consumers), marketing communications, messaging, etc. 

Personal Care Products & Services

Personal care products can also serve as an entry point to LOHAS.  While small base sizes, organic personal care products show significant growth rates – purchases of organic hair care and organic skin care are up 40% and 32%, respectively, by LOHAS consumers.  Now, approximately 25% of LOHAS consumers state purchase of one or more of these products in the past six months.
Looking at specific attributes, the biggest growth area among LOHAS consumers is in their interest in products made with certified organic ingredients.  While there have been some regulatory inconsistencies with whether personal care products can be labeled as such, this growth rate indicates the importance of the some oversight on the term.

Figure 3.  Purchase of Spa Services

(% LOHAS consumers stating they purchased the following in the past 6 months)

  Spa Services Facials Manicures/Pedicures
2003 7.8% 0 0
2004 15% 0 0
2005 8.5% 8.5% 13%

Spa purchases among LOHAS consumers grew rapidly between 2003 and 2004.  Due to the explosion of spa services, specific services were broken out in 2005 (Figure 3).  In total, 23% of LOHAS consumers used one or more spa service in 2005, representing a 70% compound annual growth rate over the three years.

Notably, the same age differences are not as evident within the personal care market.  Younger consumers are slightly more likely to use these services than older consumers (which is probably related to their likelihood to be early adopters).

Two areas that show some stability among LOHAS consumers are chiropractic services and massage.  Usage of massage is currently at 18% of LOHAS consumers, while usage of chiropractic services is at 14%.  Comparatively, non-LOHAS consumers are no more likely to use chiropractic services, but are more slightly likely to use massage than they were two years ago.  Older consumers are more likely to have used chiropractic services than younger consumers (18% vs. 11%); a function of the health needs of this group.  Massage usage shows the opposite trend – 20% of consumers age 26-35 have used massage, versus just 10% of those aged 66 plus.  

Factors Affecting Growth

In virtually all of the cases where there has been growth (either in consumption or in the importance of the benefit), there is some way to verify the existence of the attribute.  Checking the nutritional information label or the ingredients provides the consumer the information she needs on soy content, Fair Trade certification, organic content, etc.   The one exception is in giving to charitable causes, but this is consistent with the rise in consumer expectations about corporate responsibility.

With massage and chiropractic, however, there is little opportunity to verify the benefits or efficacy of any given provider before use.  While referrals and testimonials help, these are personal relationships and every body and condition is different, resulting in different fits in needs and services.  These barriers may prevent the remaining 80-85% of the population from embracing these alternative treatments.

Transparency in benefits is evident throughout the LOHAS marketplace.  Consider the value consumers place on ENERGY STAR qualified products, increased fuel efficiency of hybrid cars, and the importance of corporate sustainability reports as a means to measure annual progress toward sustainability goals.  Consequently, companies in the LOHAS space need to communicate their products’ benefits as transparently as possible.  In cases where this is difficult or not possible, rely on customer testimonials or other third parties to verify your claims. 

These are important considerations because companies offering LOHAS products often ask consumers to leave products and brands that they have been using for years, perhaps decades, because they are practically by definition non-traditional.  Consequently, there is very tall hurdle for manufacturers to overcome.  To do so, the new product or service needs to appeal to consumers both emotionally and credibly.  If done well, you will have won over a new loyal consumer that is happy to proclaim their satisfaction to friends and family.

About the Authors

Steve French is a managing partner at The Natural Marketing Institute and has extensive experience across many LOHAS-related industries . Gwynne Rogers is a strategic marketing analyst at NMI and provides analysis and strategic solutions from NMI’s LOHAS Consumer Trends Database.