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Oct 01, 2002

Understanding the LOHAS Lifestyle

PrintUnderstanding the LOHAS Lifestyle  

By Laura Everage
Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers, health food aficionados, and LOHAS consumers. LO-what consumers? Well, if you're asking what, or who, are LOHAS consumers, you're not alone. Although LOHAS consumers represent approximately 30 percent of all adults — or 63 million consumers, the majority of who don't even realize that they are LOHAS consumers.

LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. The LOHAS consumer is often referred to as a Cultural Creative, a term coined by Paul H. Ray and Ruth Anderson in their book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World (Crown, 2001). These Cultural Creatives care deeply about the ecology, the planet, relationships, peace, and social justice.

Comparatively, the LOHAS marketplace is described in the LOHAS Journal published by Natural Business Communications as "a marketplace for goods and services that appeal to consumers who value health, the environment, social justice, personal development, and sustainable living."

Environmental concerns, human health, and human rights do not completely describe the LOHAS consumer. The definition continues, "The holistic world view of the LOHAS consumer is a belief in the interconnectedness of global economies, cultures, environments, and political systems, as well as the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit within individuals in order to achieve full human potential. Personal development is of utmost concern to LOHAS consumers. Spirituality is no longer relegated to the New Age periphery but has immigrated to the center."

Wow, that's a lot to digest. As opposed to a typical demographical group defined by age, income, or other definitive means, the LOHAS consumer cuts across those boundaries and is representative of more "higher-being" ideals. Their social consciousness, rather than their generation or socioeconomic status defines these LOHAS consumers, thereby posing unique challenges for retailers seeking to market to them.

You're probably wondering, "Do I really need to capture these consumers' attention and market to them?" The simple answer is that the LOHAS market is a $230 billion market. It is also a growing market that has garnered attention from many large companies.

"Yet," explained Joesph Marra, director of marketing at Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a Harleysville, Penn.-based health and wellness research and consulting company, "one of the distinguishing things about this movement is that it is not organized. It is something that people are coming to on their own." Unlike age, or even income categorizations, the LOHAS consumer becomes one by feeling strongly about something and making his or her own conscious decision to act in a certain way.

"It is a movement that comes from within. We're just observing it as outsiders," added Marra. [The NMI, along with Natural Business Communications recently released Understanding the LOHAS Market Report: Identifying the LOHAS Consumer & Business and Branding Opportunities.]

As Steve French and Monica Emerich wrote in an article entitled, "The LOHAS Consumer Identified," (LOHAS Journal, Spring 2002), "The LOHAS marketplace is labyrinthine. It is a complex structure of consumers who defy traditional socioeconomic and demographic categorization associated with healthy living and sustainable product industries. The marketplace is also comprised of a broad array of companies across many industries."

The LOHAS movement transcends artificial categorizations.

"It is a groundswell movement that is sweeping across the culture and creating a cultural shift," explained Marra, who was involved in NMI's current LOHAS research.

The LOHAS marketplace encompasses the consumers and businesses that support the LOHAS ideals.

"These businesses produce products and services that meet the ideals of the LOHAS consumer, including offering products that improve health, safeguard ecosystems, develop human potential in a sustainable manner, reduce the use of natural resources, allow mankind and the natural world to live more harmoniously, and are created or conducted in a socially just manner."



A Consumer Breakdown

The current NMI research categorizes consumers into the following categories.

The LOHAS Consumer

When the general population is segmented into consumer groups, the LOHAS consumer group consists of 63 million adults. This consumer group's attitudes, behaviors, and usage of goods and services are affected by their concern for health — the health of their families, the sustainability of the planet, their personal development, and the future of society.



Nomadics

Seventy-nine million adults fall into the Nomadics segment defined as: "A conglomeration of consumers who are in search of their true sense of well-being. As such, they tend to move from place to place with regard to personal ideals, environmental platforms, and the overall relevance of sustainability."



Centrists

Representing 52 million adults, this category is defined as "A middle-of-the-road assemblage who congregates towards the central ground when it comes to dealing with health and sustainability. They are more steadfast in their attitudes, behavior, and usage of specific products and services — regardless of their impact on the planet and self."



Indifferents

Made up of 15 million adults, the Indifferents segment is "a consumer group that sees no need nor recognizes any connection between their consumption patterns and the effect they have on resources. They are caught up in the day-to-day challenges, not necessarily looking out for tomorrow."



Even within the LOHAS category, consumers are at different levels with regard to their belief systems — there are LOHAS leaders and LOHAS followers.

"The leaders are almost extreme in their beliefs," explained Marra, "and their belief system is not a function of age or education. It is a function of where they are in the LOHAS self-enlightenment process."

Beyond the LOHAS consumers are the Nomadics who have LOHAS tendencies. The LOHAS research revealed that approximately 38 percent of the Nomadics are LOHAS leaning, with attitudes that are similar to those of the LOHAS consumers. That translates to an additional 30 million adults who may join the LOHAS consumer group.

Beyond the categorization of consumers, the LOHAS "concept" is further divided into five sectors that represent the market within which products fall. They include: Sustainable Economy, Healthy Living, Alternative Healthcare, Personal Development, and Ecological Lifestyles. To fully understand the LOHAS marketplace, retailers must realize that there is a connection between the values of the LOHAS consumer and a variety of product categories that fall into these five business sectors.



Don't Label Me LOHAS

To capture LOHAS consumers' attention, retailers (and manufacturers) must understand that they don't like to be labeled.

"People who tend to lean toward LOHAS are iconoclasts and don't want to be classified. Their intent is to go against the majority," said Marra.

They are the consumers who make informed decisions, the ones who read the labels well beyond the ingredient list. They're looking for something more, a statement about the company that can be as simple as "Save the Planet." Because the LOHAS philosophy is about social consciousness, these consumers are searching for a product, company, or brand that fulfills their needs, and they actively seek more information about a company than simply perusing the product label. Their decision to choose one product over another is based on the overall company ideals, not just a single aspect. To illustrate this, Marra used an electric car as an example. The concept of an electric car may coincide with the LOHAS belief in using renewable resources or putting less stress on the environment. However, LOHAS consumers would not stop there. They would look into all of the company's practices. And, if they discovered for example, that the same company that produces the electric car is also making more energy-hoggng SUVs, they might think twice about purchasing from that company, even though the concept behind the product — the electric car in this case — fits their own belief and value systems.

The environment is at the core of the LOHAS consumers' belief system. In their view, the environment is interconnected with everything, from the way the food is grown to the way the workers are treated. It is a holistic world view that recognizes the interconnection between political systems and ecocultures — not just the environment.



Marketing to the LOHAS Consumer

To successfully market to LOHAS consumers, retailers must focus on such issues as fair trade, sustainability, shade grown, or ethical practices, all of which coincide with LOHAS consumers' interests, attitudes, and beliefs. And you need not seek totally new products to stock your shelves as it's highly likely that there are many LOHAS-type products already in your store that are natural tie-ins.

"These products are in every aisle," said Marra.

Retailers can easily determine which products on their shelves are LOHAS consumables simply by asking the manufacturer. However, many products already have label designations, such as 'Sustainably Grown,' or something similar.

"If I were a retailer, I'd create a sustainable corner or a sustainable aisle that could include a variety of different categories, such as fairly traded coffee," said Marra. "Once they are conscious of a company's corporate philosophy, they become brand aware and brand loyal, if a company passes their muster. Their purchasing is based on aligning their values with that of a company," he continued.

LOHAS consumers are willing to pay up to 20 percent more for LOHAS-related products.

"Typically, these LOHAS products are more expensive than similar non-LOHAS products due to the greater costs and efforts involved in sustainable growing and manufacturing," explained Marra.

Because LOHAS consumers are most influenced by brand image and least by price, promoting a relevant brand that these consumers will pay more for is a definite opportunity. Actually, "LOHAS consumers are looking for products and services that truly deliver real benefits, answers, and solutions to the world of health and sustainability," states the Understanding the LOHAS Market Report.

"It requires a bit more creativity to market to the LOHAS attitude system, not just a traditional end-cap," said Marra, "but a well-thought-out approach to reaching this group of customers."

He suggests retailers ask their customers directly if such things as sustainability, fair trade goods, or ethical practices are important factors in their choice of products. This can be accomplished either verbally or through an in-store survey.

Point-of-sale education, in-store demonstrations, and samplings are other opportunities for retailers to let their customers know they are LOHAS friendly and the source for these types of products.

"We've identified that these people exist," explained Marra. "It is the burden of the retailer to educate and point out to the consumer that these products are available in their stores."

For more information about the LOHAS market, visit www.lohasjournal.com, or for information about the report, visit www.nmi.com.






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