Health & Wellness 2017—The Year in Review

From gluten free, to dairy free, and plant-based, consumers continued to experiment with a number of food and health trends this year. While new trends are always emerging (and we’ll certainly see more of them in 2018), we’ve found that when it comes down to it, consumers are significantly more interested in improving their overall health and wellness than adhering to a trendy diet or eating pattern.

Around this time last year, we shared our recipe for success in 2017—brands should help consumers who want to get healthy, tap into the most trusted sources of health & wellness advice, and build trust and credibility. Our advice hasn’t changed. Rather than predicting which new trends will emerge in 2018, here’s a look back at the trends from 2017 that we believe will continue to have a lasting impact on the health and wellness world in 2018 and beyond.

Consumers Are Taking Steps to be Healthier
According to the 2017 IFIC Food & Health Survey, Americans are taking many steps to be healthy. Of those taking steps to be healthier, over half of people indicated that they do so to lose weight, protect their long-term health, or to feel better and have more energy. When it comes to taking these steps, consumers prefer approachable and realistic guidelines—drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, consuming smaller portions, and understanding how healthier and better-for-you foods fit into their plan—all of which have seen a nearly 30% increase in consumer participation over the past year, according to the survey.
Health Professionals Are Still the Most Trusted Source
Though consumers are taking steps to be healthier, when it comes to health and wellness, they still need more educational information on how to do so. Unlike websites, the news media, and traditional advertising, health professionals build trusting relationships with consumers by engaging with them through face-to-face counseling interactions. Regardless of all the different sources of information that consumers have access to, year after year, health professionals remain their most trusted source of guidance. 
Print is the Preferred Information Vehicle
To deliver this guidance, health professionals trust the tried and true value of printed materials. In fact, in a survey of PulseConnect members, more than 7 in 10 health professionals indicated a preference for printed materials over digital resources. Printed materials better meet their needs—they are customizable, convenient, and ensure that patients and clients leave an educational interaction with the information they need in hand.
Face-to-Face is Most Effective
While it’s easy to track metrics, clicks, and page views, the value of a digital impression continues to fall, while the value of a face-to-face interaction is on the rise. Face-to-face communication with health professionals continues to be consumers’ preferred, and most trusted, method of communication. Unlike digital communication, face-to-face interactions foster trust while helping to establish and build relationships between consumers and their most trusted source of information.    
Food Retailers Want to Help
Health professionals aren’t the only ones invested in consumer well-being. Food retailers have also acknowledged an increase in their shoppers' interest in health and wellness and, as a result, have accelerated their investments over the past few years as well. According to this 2017 FMI report, 96% of retailers surveyed indicated a commitment to expanding health and wellness programs in their stores going forward. These retailer investments have grown significantly over the past three years and we can expect to see them continue to grow for the foreseeable future. From good-for-you products to shopper engagement activities and in-store health professionals, food retailers are working to make it easier for consumers to live and eat healthily. 
Food Companies Are Reconsidering Their Approach
Food companies also want to help meet the changing health and wellness needs of consumers, but they’ve had to reconsider their approach. There’s no doubt that healthy brand name products have a health halo advantage over their private label counterparts, but consumers still remain skeptical about many of the claims being made. We’ve seen this evolve over the past few years as power has shifted from the brands to the consumers. As this transition has occurred, traditional marketing methods have become less effective, and brands have turned their focus toward high-quality interactions and earned media to meet consumers’ demands for transparency, authenticity, and engagement.
As the new year quickly approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in predicting the latest and greatest food trends, but those trends can fade away as quickly as they emerge. When it comes to health and wellness in the new year, these are the trends that will continue to have a lasting impact.