The Detox Market

Mass food and drug retailers are going to want a beauty makeover that links the category more closely with health and wellness to appeal to consumers’ new expectations for those categories. This adds up to a whole new opportunity for beauty and cosmetic brands, as we reported in our recent study, Health, Beauty and Wellness Benchmarking Report.

Here’s why: Consumers are taking greater ownership of their personal health and well-being than ever before. Their reasons are many: They’re anxious about access to health care and what it will cost, and even if health care is affordable, consumers generally are reluctant to pay from their own health savings accounts so they can meet their deductible in case a medical emergency occurs. Furthermore, and most importantly, they’re aware of the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles and wonder about the implications associated with processed and genetically modified foods.

Younger generations of consumers have witnessed the effects of following the advice of legacy big brand advertising, what the older generations struggle with health-wise as a result, and determined to take control back with an aspiration to live well and longer. They are also equipped — through social media — with more health-related information than ever before and are using it to develop their own wellness regimens that include healthy eating, alternative medicine, exercise, meditation, and often a focus on prevention versus treatment.

The health-first mentality is becoming pervasive across buying choices because of the consumerism of health care through an emerging trend of self-care. One category that is experiencing a big shift is beauty, and it’s converging with health and wellness. Consumers now measure their buying choices for beauty products against their current health and wellness beliefs. In fact, consumers have come to regard beauty products much as they view food and beverages. For example, some will automatically perceive a beauty product that’s marketed as “natural and organic,” as better for them.

When it comes to well-being, they want to know not only if a product is good for them personally; whether it is made ethically and responsibly by the manufacturer and its employees, and also if it’s good for the environment and society. Millennials are a prime example with their desire to know how a product is made, where its ingredients come from, and whether its packaging is sustainable.

A shopper at Cap Beauty.  Lexie Moreland/WWD

This consumerization of health care and its link to the beauty category represents a major shift for retailers, and it’s just gaining momentum. Several beauty retailers in the clean-beauty space, such as CAP Beauty and The Detox Market, spotted this shift early on and expanded their focus on natural cosmetics and skin care to sell complimentary ingestibles, offer wellness-related classes and literature, and build a community in-store and online that centers upon wellness for all.

It will be important for mass food and drug retailers to rethink merchandising and assortments as a result. Consumers now see the fulfillment of their healthcare and wellness needs as a physical, emotional and even a spiritual experience — one that’s influencing their shopping behavior, from the produce department to the beauty and health-care aisles.

Today’s consumers will expect similar capabilities from mass merchandisers. They want:

  • More specific and personalized offerings that address their health needs and regimen for wellness and beauty
  • Products that communicate in detail how they’ll meet the purchaser’s needs, rather than products developed and sold based on branding or packaging
  • Solutions that address overall well-being and functional beauty needs (look good and feel good)
  • Sustainable, environmentally friendly, ethically developed (organic or not animal-tested), and innovative (new, global and exciting) — especially the Millennials

What Can Retailers Do?

A three-step makeover in retail thinking can help food and drug merchandisers appeal to consumers’ merging beauty, health and wellness needs.

  1. Refresh your beauty offering and assortment. Dare to deviate from mass-market standards when it will meet new consumer demands. Identify and emphasize items with a natural link to health and wellness. At the store level, innovate and tailor the assortment based on local demographics.
  2. Incorporate the new offering into an overall health and wellness narrative. Rather than merchandise beauty items by themselves using traditional bright lights and glossy photos, place them next to health and wellness products while providing a marketing story that speaks to shoppers’ concerns. If you’re a retail pharmacy, why not merchandise skin supplements, such as omega 3s and collagen, with skin-care items, tying nutritional ingestibles and beauty products together? If you’re a beauty provider, market high-end green, ginseng, and herbal teas next to K-beauty items. Likewise, a grocer could locate avocado masks and oils on an end cap or a display with actual avocados.
  3. Focus on education and experiences. Provide customers with education and purchasing guidance that explains the linkages between health, wellness and beauty needs. Develop services that engage customers, such as specially trained beauty advisers. Communicate ingredient content and product benefits that surpass labels in compelling and convincing ways. Provide customers a physical or online space that allows them to explore, play, and learn.

This evolution creates opportunities for traditional food and drug players to better connect their core competencies to beauty. It gives them a more holistic and differentiated conversation to have with wellness-minded consumers — one that would be difficult for specialty stores to replicate.

Patricia Hong is a partner in global strategy and consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s consumer and retail practice, and heads its beauty and luxury division. She can be reached at

Andrew Knight is a principal in A.T. Kearney’s Consumer and Retail practice. He can be reached at  

Mark Mechelse is vice president of insights and communications for leading retail industry trade association, Global Market Development Center. He can be reached at 

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