How health and wellness replaced diet

Posted: 7 February 2020 | | No comments yet

The food and beverage industry is driven by consumer demand and popular trends, and the health and wellness trend is more prevalent than ever. James Clifton, Chief Executive of the MISSION Group, takes a look at how brands and food businesses have looked to rebrand alongside.

How health and wellness replaced diet

We are surrounded by more health and wellness messages than ever before. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global health and wellness industry is now worth $4.2 trillion, represents 5.3 percent of global economic output and grew 12.8 percent between 2015 and 2017.

Its voice is heard not just in paid-for advertising but in editorial, entertainment and social media channels too. From Peloton to Healthy Steamer Bowls, from LA Fitness to Goop, from Lululemon to Lorraine, it seems everyone wants us to get our wellness on and to feel good about ourselves while we do it.

Note that we are not talking about dieting, or weight-loss, or anything so pejorative or humdrum. We are accentuating the positive, here: health and wellness only.

It is certain that the terrain ahead is uncertain, even for brands with deep roots in the sector. For every Peloton or Mirror sold this past Christmas, there is a Power Plate or ThighMaster gathering dust in the garage and a Spiralizer or NutriBullet doing the same in the kitchen.

It is certain that the terrain ahead is uncertain, even for brands with deep roots in the sector.

It is fine to spin the wheel on a hot trend if you are a new brand: you literally have nothing to lose except your start-up stake. But, if you are a long-established brand shifting to take advantage of burgeoning trends, you could face real risk should you get it wrong: you can destroy your legitimacy, expertise and core brand trust. 

In the case of the wellness trend, it does feel bigger and more robust than another mere fad, despite the sometimes wacky players in the sector. No doubt that is why genuine, authentic diet brands – like Atkins – have adopted a strategy to move away from the ‘D’ word to embrace the much bigger audience: the non-dieting but health-conscious, wellbeing cohort. No doubt multiple focus groups have reported that the ‘diet’ word turns lots of people off and that emphasising health, wellbeing and taste will attract a larger, more lucrative, audience.

This is not new news. Coca-Cola pioneered this strategy for the mass market back in 1982 when it launched Diet Coke with “Just for the taste of it”, using Elton John to repeat that sentiment a decade later and they have kept the line ever since. They even went a step further, dropping the D word entirely with Coke Zero and, subsequently, Coke No Added Sugar, even though these variants do ostensibly the same job (albeit with slightly different flavour profiles) of banishing sugar without losing sweetness. Prevailing wisdom has it that young males in particular were alienated by the ‘D’ word, even though they liked the taste in blind taste tests. Pepsi also followed suit with Max.

In the case of the wellness trend, it does feel bigger and more robust than another mere fad.

Weight Watchers’ recent rebrand to WW follows a similar “healthful” path. Purging the brand of the ‘Weight’ word presumably makes it feel more comfortable to a wider audience, not consciously on a diet. And it rids the brand of any latent embarrassment when the product shuffles down the conveyor belt at Tesco in view of your neighbour: “I didn’t know you were on a diet, Sharon?”   

But there are dangers for brands who move away from their authentic core essence. And in this category, particularly, those risks can carry greater weight (sorry) than just a poor score on the brand’s tracking results. If authentic trusted brands in the weight-loss category are moving away from the core diet/weight proposition, at a time of unparalleled public health crises over obesity, then where do consumers turn for genuine expert solutions?

Once the public memory of the true origins of WW fade, will the brand still have the same relevance and clout in the diet sector it currently enjoys? The same goes for Atkins: once it is not a protein-rich, carb-free, dietary system any longer, does it still have the authority to command a premium?

Substituting an Atkins bar for a KitKat will make little difference by itself to overall weight loss (albeit reducing sugar is rarely a bad thing) so where is the real benefit for the consumer here? And how does it differentiate itself from Lara bars, Clif bars, Kind bars and any number of healthy snacking options in the grocery aisle: on taste alone?

In this instance, the brand stretch is probably feasible and I am sure both brands have oodles of data to prove it. From diet to health is but a mere skip and its but a further hop to wellness should they choose to take it. Besides, Lucozade wrote the book on how to navigate this path back in the 90s.  

But stretch a brand too far or too quickly from its authentic roots and you can risk not only the new venture failing but causing damage to the core brand itself.

About the author

Appointed in 2019, James Clifton is Group Chief Executive at The MISSION Group. Starting his career Client-side, James has worked for various UK and international agencies, including Omnicom and WPP. Following this he created balloon dog in 2008, having led an MBO of Fox Murphy. Balloon dog was later acquired by MISSION and James was appointed to the Board in October 2012. James went on to chair MISSION’s Integrated Agencies Business Unit, as well as become CEO of the Group’s IIoT asset tracking business, Pathfindr.

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