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LOHAS-Socially Conscious Consumers Create Challenges and Opportunities for Advertisers and Marketers, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

LOHAS, an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, is a term used to describe the segment of consumers whose purchases are influenced by matters such as corporate social responsibility, recyclable materials, energy efficiency, organic contents, toxicity, allergens, environmental impact and alternative living styles.  “Eco-friendly” products are important to them, but these consumers should not be confused with extreme “greens” or environmental fanatics.
LOHAS consumers typically prefer to buy organic or “natural” foods, dietary supplements and personal care products; they also often prefer alternative medicines and therapies in the form of acupuncture, massage and herbal remedies.  Furthermore, these consumers tend to be strong advocates for renewable energy and seek out socially conscious products and companies.
LOHAS consumers are from all age groups and income levels.  Although this group of people is far from homogeneous, it represents a significant and growing portion of the consumer market.  Some of their issues have begun to gain popular momentum.  In the face of growing levels of obesity, pervasive chemicals and hormones found in food, and the world’s massive fossil fuel consumption, concerns about personal health and sustainable energy have begun to affect consumer buying practices.
As a result, many more companies have begun to present themselves as environmentally and socially conscious entities.  Many have taken steps to build green facilities, to place stricter controls on the working conditions at factories run by suppliers, or to ensure that fair wages are paid by suppliers.  Many also contribute significant sums to charitable organizations.
A vast segment of consumers wants to utilize household products and cosmetics that are free of toxic chemicals and that have a lower impact on the environment.  Often, they are willing to pay a bit more to satisfy this personal interest. 
A good example of this trend is the Honest Company.  Founded by celebrity actress Jessica Alba, Honest states that it is a “wellness brand with values rooted in consciousness, community, transparency and design.”  Its marketing strategy is to offer products that avoid certain chemicals while featuring innovative styles or designs.  At the same time, the firm discusses the amount of time and money that it gives back to charitable causes.  The celebrity status of its founder, combined with savvy marketing and positioning, has generated great success.  Merchandise includes baby products (including diapers), bath and body products, cosmetics and vitamins.
Magazines as diverse as Shape and Town and Country have devoted entire issues to environmentally friendly topics.  Advertisers jumped to provide eco-sensitive ads highlighting products that fall into “green” categories such as those using recycled packaging or non-animal tested.  The trend has gathered strength, with regular columns and articles appearing every month in issues of a wide variety of publications.
Recent trends in high energy costs have combined with the global financial crisis to boost the LOHAS mentality.  Consumers are now much more financially conservative, and they want items that are of lasting value.  A “less is more” mentality will spread.  For example, the continual growth in the size of the average new home built in the U.S. has stopped, and homes will be smaller, but smarter, going forward.  The same is true in automobiles, as evidenced by the tremendous success of the small, but smart, cars like the Prius and the Mini.  Health care costs and other considerations are boosting demand for products that promote a healthy lifestyle.
Discount giant Walmart made news when it informed its 100,000 suppliers that they must disclose full environmental costs of making their products.  Walmart will then compile a “sustainability index” based on the information and assign a grade to each supplier.
In 2019, a number of shampoo, detergent and packaged food companies were expected to begin offering products in reusable containers.  PepsiCo, Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Nestle SA and Unilever are designing packaging made of glass, steel or other materials that can be returned, cleaned and refilled.  It remains to be seen whether or not this will become a growing sustainability trend widely supported by consumers.

Internet Research Tip:

     Savvy retailers, manufacturers and marketers will adopt the following practices to position themselves for the LOHAS market:
=         Stress the utility and long-lasting value of products (as well as their inherent beauty and fashion)
=         Stress an organization’s sensitivity to environmental issues, energy concerns, personal health needs and restrained personal budgets
=         Show consumers concrete examples of value, lowered environmental impact and/or reduced costs in products and services
=         Cater to consumers’ concerns about health issues by supporting appropriate causes and creating tie-ins to health education and issues
=         Be aware that consumers will pay more for LOHAS-centric goods and services, but only when they see lasting value or reduced environmental impact.  For example, surveys consistently show that many consumers will pay a bit more for electricity that is generated by renewable means.  Another example:  Each month, thousands of consumers pay a higher price for hybrid-equipped vehicles than they would have paid for traditional cars, even though it can take years and years to earn a return on that extra cost
=         Day-to-day consumer products must be priced within reason, even if they have high LOHAS factors
Source:  Plunkett Research, Ltd.

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