LOHAS Consumers Driving Innovation

Kyle Bradley



Many consumers have long yearned for a shift from processed, preserved consumables to natural, unadulterated ones; but, to find products they felt right about buying, this group had few options but to frequent local farmers markets to find truly organic produce or eggs from free-range chickens. Today, these discerning consumers have a name and billions of dollars of collective buying power.

LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability, a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice. LOHAS consumers are interested in products covering a range of market sectors and sub-sectors, including green building supplies, alternative health care, organic clothing and food, yoga and other fitness products, and eco-tourism.

“As far as personal care goes, LOHAS consumers will buy anything that’s natural, organic or environmentally friendly more often than anyone else would,” said Gwynne Rogers, LOHAS business director, The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI). “Thirty-three percent of LOHAS consumers have purchased an organic personal care product, which includes skin care, hair care and oral care products, in the past six months, and 55 percent say they’ve purchased a natural personal care product in that same time frame. That compares with 14 percent of the general population saying they’ve purchased organic, and 27 percent saying they’ve purchased natural products.”

NMI has been accumulating data and statistics on LOHAS consumers for five years. Generally speaking, Rogers noted, LOHAS consumers tend to be older and are more often female than male. Data also suggests they’re slightly better educated than the average conventional consumer. “But it’s not as simple as saying you can target female baby boomers with a college degree and hit the LOHAS consumer. It’s not that simple,” Rogers said.

Familiarity with personal care products among these target consumers may not cross over into the cosmeceutical arena just yet, as only 10 percent of U.S. adults are even familiar with the term cosmeceutical. “For LOHAS consumers, I would imagine a larger percentage [are familiar] because [they] are interested in the healthy, whole-body approach,” Rogers said. Still, this low familiarity means marketers have ground to cover if they want cosmeceutical sales to go from steadily rising to exploding. Of course, natural circumstances are just right for this category to explode, as the millions-strong baby boomer population is aggressively seeking ways to retard signs of aging.

Age differences aside in the LOHAS group, Rogers noted there are two ways manufacturers can efficiently target the market. “Products need to be more environmentally sensitive or socially conscious than competitor products,” she said. “And, it’s not enough that a product is greener or more socially conscious than a competitive product. It has to have as little a footprint as possible.” To sell into this market, everything from ingredients to manufacturing to distribution and packaging should align with LOHAS values. “These are very demanding consumers,” Rogers said.

However, once a product has been manufactured and brought to retail, what will keep LOHAS consumers coming back is the product’s efficacy. Organic ingredients, environmentally friendly manufacturing and sustainability are all for naught if consumers can’t get the same (or better) results as conventional products. Ineffective products will only sell once.

Connecting LOHAS and Spa-Goers

Spa-goers may already be inclined to look favorably on green consumer practices, a trend leading the International Spa Association (ISPA) to encourage member spas to tend toward greener business practices, which may attract more LOHAS consumers. “LOHAS is a demographic of people that feel very strongly about a lifestyle of health and sustainability, and these same core values are what make up the spa consumer,” said Lynne McNees, president, ISPA. “So, it made perfect sense for us to blend the two together.”

LOHAS administrators realized significant commonalities between the two groups and invited ISPA to set up a pavilion at the annual LOHAS conference. “We tried to educate the attendees on ISPA as a resource, looking at ISPA as the umbrella organization that can bring them green, eco-friendly spas,” McNees said. She and the ISPA team were striving to show LOHAS businesses that the Lohasians and spa consumers share strikingly similar philosophies on green consumerism. ISPA jumped at the chance to participate in the event, knowing the conference would be a way to network with green manufacturers and promote future business connections. “The questions we were getting were: What is ISPA? How do we get involved?” McNees said. “There was a lot of partnering of ideas and concepts.”

NMI noted 17 percent of LOHAS consumers have visited a spa in the last six months, compared with 11 percent of total U.S. adults. “Now that sustainable living has become more mainstream, even day spas are incorporating [green products],” McNees said. “We want to lead by example, and if ISPA members see us [recycling and using eco-friendly products and services], they’re going to say, ‘We need to get involved in that.’”

She was quick to reiterate, however, that converting a spa to a green spa doesn’t automatically mean large expenditures. “Whether it means recycling rain water or recycling plastic or what kind of coffee you use—it’s anything you can do to make a difference,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a geo-thermal roof or some major financial investment. If everyone would do something—little things that make an impact—it will have a bigger impact over time.”

And since LOHAS consumers are indeed demanding, McNees noted spas are listening to their opinions about reducing packaging materials and using pure ingredients. “You’ll often see a plastic bottle wrapped in plastic in a box wrapped in plastic in a bag with tissue,” she said, “so we’re trying to drive the spa owners and operators to go to their resource partners and say: ‘Please, let’s be sustainable. It’s about what’s inside, not what it looks like.’” With the one-two punch of consumer demand and coaching from ISPA, LOHAS consumers seeking spa services will feel better about spending money with these businesses aware of the environmental impact and sustainability issues involved in offering their products and services.

“For so long, people thought they needed to put funny things on their roof, or put in a windmill, and it felt out of reach,” McNees said. “Now it doesn’t, and Laurie David and Al Gore and a lot of people have helped make it mainstream. Now everyone’s excited about it, everyone’s doing it.”


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