For Health and Wellness Devotees, Money Doesn’t Matter

A study by the Natural Marketing Institute found retail sales within the U.S. foodservice and consumer packaged goods’ health and wellness industry hit $102.8 billion in 2007, representing 15% growth since 2006, adding that there doesn’t seem to be any signs of a slowdown in this sector.

NMI predicted that double-digit growth of the health and wellness marketplace will continue to approach projected sales of $170 billion by 2012. In natural and organic food products alone, NMI is predicting a 17% increase in sales in 2008.

Other studies have found that mainstream consumers, many of whom had begun dabbling more extensively in organics before the current spike in food and gas prices, are retreating. IRI recently reported, for example, that in the early part of 2008, 52% of shoppers said they were buying fewer organic products, mediapost.com reported.

But these dabblers were never particularly committed, NMI president Maryellen Molyneaux said. Core customer groups, on the other hand, are deeply attached to their beliefs.

"Look at how fond consumers have become of sports hydration products,” Molyneaux said. “Go to any soccer field in America and all you see are people drinking these beverages. We’re even seeing kids buying them with their own money. That’s not going away. People see these foods as providing a convenient way to get what they need, and they’re willing to pay for it."

Functional foods and beverages continue to be the largest segment of the market. In 2007, consumers spent $38.6 billion on functional and fortified foods and beverages, an increase of 12%, NMI said.

"We’re still predicting strong growth in functional foods, because you have a melding of high consumer need with an aging population, high consumer awareness, and even strong uptake on information about emerging nutrients," Molyneaux said.

NMI said spending on vitamins and other supplements reached $21.7 million, a 7% gain; natural foods and beverages, $19 billion, up 4%; natural and organic personal care products, $7.8 billion, up 29%; and natural and organic general merchandise, hit $1.5 billion, up 21%.

css.php