Retail Trends 2024: South Africa's health and wellness market is alive and well

The health and wellness industry continues to gain momentum worldwide, with a current value estimated at US$4.2 trillion (R80 trillion), representing as much as 5.3% of global economic output. South Africa is no exception, with consumers increasingly focusing on personal well-being and self-care, and actively seeking products and services that support their journey toward a healthier lifestyle. In this article – the first in a series delving into South Africa’s leading retail trends for 2024 – we explore the top health and wellness trends and how they are shaping the retail market this year.

The importance of mental health and well-being

Mental health, for too long a taboo subject, is finally getting the attention it warrants. Athletes have become increasingly vocal about their mental health, companies are offering counselling services and fostering supportive work environments, and work-life integration – which goes way beyond work-life balance – is the new buzz phrase.

This increasing awareness of the importance of mental health has led to an increase in consumers seeking out products and practices that promote mental well-being, such as CBD-infused products that can assist with issues ranging from anxiety and insomnia to pain and stress, and products and activities that promote relaxation and stress relief. Retailers and brands can tap into this trend to boost engagement and add value by hosting enlightening wellness talks and workshops or introducing activities such as in-store yoga classes.

Surge in sustainable and ethical consumerism

With the growing concern over the environmental and social impact of consumerism, shoppers are not only seeking healthier alternatives but also products that align with their ethical beliefs and have a lower environmental impact. A study carried out among South African consumers by consumer insights agency KLA found that 42.8% and 41.8% of respondents chose to follow a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle respectively, due to their ethical and sustainability benefits. Interestingly, this is being driven largely by Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who have wellness ‘inbred’ to a certain extent, thanks to social media and their parents, who are generally more wellness-oriented than previous generations.

Businesses have started taking note and are reducing carbon footprints, decreasing packaging waste, and sourcing ingredients responsibly, offering everything from organic and fair-trade options to free-range, pasture-reared, or plant-based.

The continuing rise of organic products and plant-based alternatives

A recent Deloitte study found that a substantial 84% of global consumers emphasise health as a key factor in their food choices, and one of the biggest trends is the increasing demand for natural and organic products. Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential harmful effects of chemicals and additives in their products and are seeking out natural alternatives: a trend that is not limited to food and beverages but also extends to personal care and household products.

Another trend that is gaining traction in the health and wellness retail market is the rise of plant-based alternatives. According to recent market research, the plant-based meat market in South Africa is expected to experience double-digit growth, mirroring global projections, and is anticipated to surpass US$13 billion (R248 billion) by the end of 2026.

This shift is substantiated by the KLA study, which indicates that 49.9% of respondents view a meatless diet as a healthier option. The same study found that 61.7% seek healthier versions of favourite foods when shopping, indicating a potential market for businesses offering healthier alternatives. In response, notable industry players such as McDonald’s and Burger King are adapting their menus to meet the growing demand, while retailers like Woolworths and Checkers are expanding their vegan product offerings.

Is this a trend worth catering to?

It’s clear that the health and wellness retail market in South Africa is thriving, and with the right strategies and practices, businesses can tap into this growing market and meet the evolving needs of consumers. From sustainable packaging and cruelty-free certifications to stress-relieving products and mindful experiences, brands are striving to align with consumer values. These brands will undoubtedly gain a competitive edge in the market, but the focus needs to extend beyond simply adding new product lines to infuse all customer touchpoints including personalisation, experiences, innovation, loyalty programmes, advice and more.

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