Consumer focus shifts from physical to mental health

The pandemic has intensified a rise in depression, anxiety and distress and, while immunity remains a key focus, there has been a shift in the past two years from physical to mental health. This is according to GameChanger 2022, a report published by brand-building agency Healthy Marketing Team. Increasingly aware of the role of good mental balance for the body’s response to any health threat and the role played by the microbiome, consumers are moving away from the single hero ingredient for immunity to a more holistic approach that also includes stress relieving and mood boosting components. HMT founder Peter Wennström writes: “You must understand how to connect to today’s consumers not only with physical benefits and rational claims but also with emotional benefits … The value chain starts in the mind of the consumer — more so now than ever before.”

Comment from CHC.Newsflash Deputy Editor, Kirsten McEwan: The after-effects of pandemic-related lockdowns, worries and upheavals to our lives have become ever apparent and the rise in mental health issues is perhaps unsurprising. A study published in The BMJ (16th February 2022) highlights a further cause for concern about mental wellbeing in the post-Covid era. Researchers from the VA St Louis Healthcare System analysed data from the US Dept of Veterans Affairs database for 153,848 people who tested positive for Covid-19 between March 2020-January 2021; the data was matched to that from 5.6mn+ people without Covid and 5.8mn+ people pre-pandemic. Those with Covid had a 60% increased risk of a mental health diagnosis or prescription in the year following infection vs controls. Covid infection was associated with sleep disorders, depressive disorders, neurocognitive decline and substance use disorders. The researchers point out that the study included mostly older white men and the findings may not apply to other groups, but marketers may want to take note of this more specific target market.

Sedatives & sleep aids was one of the Top 5 most active CHC subcategories for new product development in 2021. Source: CHC New Products Tracker.

Nicholas Hall’s Touchpoints: Mental health has been a growth sector of the global CHC market for at least 5 years. Sleep aids & sedatives have accumulated sales of about US$3bn, with a 7% CAGR since 2016, but growth accelerated even faster during the pandemic to 13%. More dynamic still was herbal memory & brain health, which most recently grew by 18% to US$1bn, with a 5-year CAGR of 10%.

Consumer demand is strong for all the reasons outlined in this week’s lead story and in my colleague Kirsten McEwan’s commentary. Yet I sense that many of the brands sold in the sector are deficient in some way – either a lack of excitement, weak claims or the formulations are old and with little scientific support. Prevagen from Quincy Bioscience is a standout in memory & brain health, but its clinical studies have been roundly contested by the authorities. Quincy always fights back, seems to win these arguments, continues to have very high growth and is looking to take a better than one-third global market share even though it is sold only in the USA.

Sleep aids & sedatives are much more fragmented and, although it is growing well, brand leader ZzzQuil (P&G) takes only a 6% global market share. It seems to me that the leading players in this sector, and new entrants, need to redefine their positioning and claims, and invest in more product development and clinical trials, if they are to take full advantage of abundant unmet consumer demand.

Put your brands into the spotlight at The Nicholas Hall CHC Marketing Awards 2022, which will take place during our 32nd European CHC Conference & Action Workshop. Entry submission is open until 1 April! For more information about entry criteria, or more details about the meeting, which will take place on 4-6 May 2022 in Athens, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.

Cognitive Boost For Children Whose Mothers Take Supplements In Pregnancy

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Maternal multi-micronutrient (MMN) supplementation during pregnancy could drastically improve cognitive ability in children, reports a study published on 17th January in The Lancet Global Health. This may be apparent in children between the ages of 9 to 12 years.

The Summit Institute of Development research team led a follow-up study involving 2,879 schoolchildren in Indonesia whose mothers were supplemented with MMN or iron + folic acid (IFA) in the Supplementation with Multiple Micronutrients Intervention Trial (2001-2004).

SID’s initial research was conducted with 31,290 pregnant women on Lombok Island. The women were selected randomly to receive multi-micronutrient supplements.

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The CEO of SID, Mandri Apriatni, commented: “Results of our initial research showed there had been an 18 percent decrease in infant mortality rates each year among mothers who had taken multi-micronutrient supplements during their pregnancy, much lower compared to those who only received iron and folate acid supplementation.”

In the follow up-study that saw children complete cognitive tests over a two-year period, researchers observed better procedural memory in MMN children vs IFA children. The difference between the two corresponded with the increase associated with an additional half-year of schooling.

Children of anaemic mothers in the MMN group scored considerably higher in general intellectual competence, equivalent to the increase associated with an additional full year of schooling. Overall, there was a positive coefficient of MMN vs IFA in 18 / 21 tests.

Brain Power for the Here and Now

It’s not for everyone and the rules are absurdly complicated, but cricket is a fascinating sport, not least for the monumental levels of concentration required by its players. Last week, two Australian cricketers spent over six straight hours batting together in the field. That’s six hours of trying to hit a red ball coming at you every 40 seconds, often in brutally hot conditions, and with the opposition doing and saying anything they can to distract you (known as “sledging”). Staying focused and in the moment is key. But that’s not possible for six hours straight. You have to know when to switch off … and switch right back on. It’s no surprise that vitamin marketers Swisse and Vitabiotics have recruited international cricketers Ricky Ponting and James Anderson respectively for their advertising campaigns in the past, even if the physical benefits have been more heavily emphasised than the mental.

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Ricky Ponting for Swisse

Of course, extraordinary levels of concentration are required elsewhere: for airplane pilots, long-distance lorry drivers or even Cirque du Soleil dancers, a second’s lapse of concentration can put lives at risk! And in a digital age where we are constantly distracted by so many bleeps and flashing lights from phones and laptops, sticking with what’s in front of us also takes astonishing amounts of concentration, even for young people. Too often older consumers, or simply students, are flagged up in ads as needing to concentrate more and/or forget less. In fact we could all do with a little more brain power to deal with the here and now. An angle which VMS players should be much quicker to highlight.