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The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) has released a study focusing on what it calls "wellness polarization" - a move by consumers "away from more moderate attitudes about health and wellness and toward opposing ends of the spectrum."

The result: people are either embracing health and wellness issues with fervor, taking a holistic approach, or they are abandoning health and wellness in favor of other priorities.

NMI president Maryellen Molyneaux says that this polarization is caused when people feel uncertainty "caused by factors including continued national security threats, the struggling economy, and many other external events." When faced with the need to prioritize, it seems, people don't understand the meaning of moderation.

Indeed, NMI has broken down the consumer population into give health and wellness-related segments:

  • People who choose health first across all categories (21 percent of the population, according to NMI research).

  • People who focus on health through proper nutrition, diet and exercise (16 percent).

  • People who are seeking both a healthier lifestyle - and a "magic bullet" that will help them achieve it (20 percent).

  • People who are "fence sitters," neutral on health and wellness issues (18 percent).

  • And then, there's the "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" crowd, seeking instant gratification whenever possible (25 percent of the population).

Notably, both the two most extreme categories grew over the past year, with people choosing health first up from 17 percent to 21 percent, and the "eat, drink and be merry" group up from 20 to 25 percent of the population.

NMI suggests that the fact that the "health first" group is now one-fifth of the general population indicates that it is now a mainstream approach to health and wellness, and needs to be taken seriously as more than just a transitory trend.
KC's View:
True…except that we have to note that virtually every one of these categories hovers close to the 20 percent range. While the fringe categories may be seeing the biggest shift, you still have to concede that about 54 percent of the population occupies the middle.

The reason, we suspect, that the fringe categories are seeing such investment by consumers is that retailers, manufacturers, and the media tend to cast these issues in black-and-white terms. It's either all-natural or all-carbs or all-protein or all-whatever.

One the one hand, many in the industry resist the notion that they should be in the education business. But then, we often latch onto the latest trend or fad because it spells fast sales.

It would make more long-term sense to present an educated, measured approach to food and nutrition, health and wellness - and then become an active partner in the consumer's pursuit of a beneficial lifestyle.