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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Unlike the supplements you’d traditionally purchase in health and wellness retailers like The Vitamin Shoppe, Walgreens, or even Amazon, lifestyle supplements are hawked by fashion-forward lifestyle brands or bloggers selling supplements around the goal of attaining a certain aspirational lifestyle.
There’s a certain kind of dietary supplement on the rise: the so-called “lifestyle” supplement. Unlike the supplements you’d traditionally purchase in health and wellness retailers like The Vitamin Shoppe, Walgreens, or even Amazon, lifestyle supplements are hawked by fashion-forward lifestyle brands or bloggers-think Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.
What do these brands do differently than traditional supplement brands? A few things. First, rather than attracting supplement customers from a “sick care” point of view-e.g., by creating a supplement for cholesterol support or blood sugar management-these brands sell supplements around the goal of attaining a certain aspirational lifestyle. A beauty- and fashion-focused brand like Goop, for instance, might sell a nutricosmetic supplement that helps its readers keep their skin looking beautiful, dewy, and fresh. An athleisure wear brand, on the other hand, might sell supplements for joint health to support active-lifestyle customers in their fitness goals, such as marathon running.
Libby Rodney, chief strategy officer at market researcher Harris Insights & Analytics (Rochester, NY), says that lifestyle brands employ some very clever tools for recruiting and retaining their audiences. First and foremost, she says, the goal of a lifestyle brand is to build a community aspiring to the same lifestyle goal. Once a community member decides to trust a brand and join the brand “tribe,” they become likely customers for whatever products the brand decides to sell because they’ve already bought into the brand’s philosophy.
Lifestyle brands communicate heavily with their base, whether via an active company blog or “pop-up” shops or events where customers can learn about the brand and its products. Bloggers such as Kimberly Snyder, who now sells her own brand of probiotics, spend a lot of time educating and sharing information with their audience, Rodney points out. “They basically are giving away nonstop value to an audience about health and wellness, giving them tips and tricks and all kinds of information,” she says. “Then, once that trust is built, they’ll say, ‘Hey, by the way, I didn’t see this product out in the marketplace, so I decided that I needed to create it just for you.’”
Rodney points out that bloggers aren’t the only fashionable entities making inroads in the supplements space, either. Even traditional fashion retailers like Urban Outfitters are now selling dietary supplements. However, she notes, not every Urban Outfitters store is a ripe candidate for supplement selling. “In a regular store where there’s not really a pitch for it and it’s just sitting on the side of a shelf, it might not feel right,” she says. A store that hosts interactive events with customers and engages would be a better fit, she says. “It’s got to be a really cultivated experience.”
Building a lifestyle brand takes work, but the rewards are well worth it: if you’re a brand, imagine that, instead of having to compete against dozens of brands on the retail shelf, your customer-already incredibly loyal to your brand because of the groundwork you’ve laid and the trust you’ve created-reaches for your product from the start. It’s a heady proposition.
“It seems like there are a lot of opportunity gaps in this space if you really understand who your audience is-especially if your audience is a little more affluential,” as many lifestyle customers are, says Rodney. The typical lifestyle consumer generally has more disposable income to spend on health and wellness, whether it be Millennial urbanites with income to splurge on a pressed juice after a Soul Cycle class, or a Gwyneth Paltrow peer with the budget for a higher-priced Goop supplement. The trick, Rodney says, is to identify the needs of your lifestyle customer. “What are the things they want to fix about their appearance? What are the things they are stressed about? And is there a supplemental solution for those things?”
As health-and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle-becomes the new status symbol, fashionable lifestyle brands will continue capturing new supplement customers. “If you look at what luxury looked like in the past, it was things like Ferraris and yachts and McMansions-all these things that were really unattainable to the mass consumer,” Rodney says. But now, through smaller splurges like acai bowls, pressed juices, and yes, even dietary supplements, more consumers can participate in the fashionable health and wellness movement. “I think it’s actually opening the aperture a little bit on how we define luxury and how it is more accessible,” she concludes. “We think there’s a big opportunity, white space, for supplement brands to be more in those lifestyle spaces.”