Andrea Wroble
Andrea Wroble is a Health & Wellness Analyst at Mintel. Andrea focuses on writing reports and providing consumer-driven insights for health and wellness categories.

At the start of 2020, we highlighted that the wellness industry needed to become more attainable to reach a wider net of consumers. Instead of focusing on niche, high-end segments, wellness brands should implement manageable and seamless solutions to shift the industry from exclusive to inclusive. Fast forward a few months and the world is facing a new set of circumstances; the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed American’s priorities, spending habits and their ability to maintain certain commitments. This disruption to day-to-day life has impacted how adults prioritize personal wellness, forcing companies and brands to reevaluate their approach.

According to Mintel research on health management trends, adults are most motivated to set health and wellness goals to improve their health, feel happier, look better and take control of their wellbeing. As adults are adjusting to life and priority shifts beyond lockdowns, consumers are focused on staying in control of emotional, mental and physical health. During the week of May 28 – June 4, 2020, nearly half of US adults placed greater emphasis on their mental wellbeing, as well as more than one third said exercising, according to Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker. Simple ways to incorporate wellness from the comfort of the home or nearby outdoor spaces have taken over as essential practices to maintain connections, release newfound stress and recuperate some semblance of normalcy. As COVID-19 endures and poses a lasting impact on adults’ routines, Mintel is looking back at our 2020 wellness predictions and discussing how COVID-19 has fast-tracked these trends:

Walking is the new release

What we said in January 2020: Low impact workouts have gained popularity as sustainable and attainable fitness solutions. Low impact exercise, such as walking or stretching, can be easily ingrained into daily life, with or without access to a workout facility. Actions that incorporate both physical and emotional benefits will act as wellness-driven activities available to everyone.

What to expect following COVID-19: Lockdowns and business closures proposed to limit the spread of COVID-19 have put pressure on the fitness industry to stay relevant within their communities. Fitness brands have turned to digital platforms to provide adults with at-home content in order to keep users engaged. However, adults may be adopting new routines to maintain physical activity and escape from their own homes. For many, COVID-19 has changed the purpose of the home to include all responsibilities/commitments, including work, school/daycare for kids and exercise. Feeling confined to one space pushes adults to seek safe outlets outside of the home, making walking a welcomed activity for both mental and physical benefits.

What brands can do: Fitness facilities are beginning to open back up with restrictions in place, but brands should anticipate a dip in membership as adults look to cut discretionary spending or feel concerned about their own health safety. Less than one-fifth of Americans are most looking forward to going back to their usual exercise routine once social distancing measures are relaxed, according to Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker for the week of May 28 – June 4, 2020. The shift in consumer priorities challenges fitness brands to rethink how and where they connect with members – facilitating socially distant outdoor activities, for example, builds a sense of community while offering a mental and physical release. Beyond that, fitness brands could support walking initiatives by providing playlists, meditations, or podcasts to listen to along the way.

Nearly half of US adults placed greater emphasis on their mental wellbeing, as well as more than one third said exercising, according to Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker.

Mental health awareness has boomed, emphasizing the need for solutions

What we said in January 2020: The definition of mental health will become more expansive to include everyday emotions. Brands must work to provide simple solutions for stress, anxiety, burnout or exhaustion – while encouraging happiness and building a sense of community.

What to expect following COVID-19: Uncertainty over the economy, personal finances, exposure to the virus and changes in relationships has put Americans on high alert. Mintel’s upcoming research on managing stress and mental wellbeing highlights more than one-third of adults are paying more attention to their mental health compared to a year ago and nearly one-fourth of adults admit their mental health has worsened since last year – a higher percentage than those who say their mental health has improved. Currently, more than half of adults say worrying about the future is their main source of stress, emphasizing the impact of today’s situation on emotional strain. More than before, adults are seeking support to manage newfound stressors brought on by changes to their routine.

What brands can do: The conversation around mental wellbeing must include adjusting to a post-pandemic world, prioritizing meaningful relationships and securing a sense of stability in day-to-day life. While most adults understand some mental health distress is a part of life, more than half agree it is hard to improve mental health on their own. However, accessible resources are not sought after to manage mental health and wellbeing, as the majority of consumers rely on friends and family, while less than one-fifth use a digital app. Beyond increasing visibility of easy-to-access mental health resources, brands within the space should lean into adults’ desire for familiar and trustworthy guidance.

Adults are losing sleep, OTCs can offer support

What we said in January 2020: 2020 will be the year of redefining sleep health. In the past, sleep was perceived as an interruption to productivity. In 2020 and beyond, getting a good night’s sleep will be viewed as the foundation of self-care and healthy living.

What to expect following COVID-19: The happenings of 2020 have impacted sleep schedules causing greater strain on consumers’ mental/emotional health. Nearly half of adults say lack of sleep contributes to their level of stress and getting more sleep is the top 2020 health and wellness goal. The ability to simply sleep through the night or maintain a regular nighttime schedule can be a task for some. Adults who have trouble sleeping are thinking about what needs to get done, which may be amplified as people spend more time within the home, according to Mintel research on over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. Other factors, such as health concerns, financial insecurity and uncertainty about the future may heighten racing thoughts throughout the night. Ultimately, lack of sleep is intensified by the impending pressure of COVID-19 and social unrest facing the country.

What brands can do: Brands cannot downplay the role of mental/emotional stressors on a lack of sleep. Tools to understand the stress or anxiety behind sleepless nights may be an untapped area of sleep health for key players to explore. Additionally, OTC sleep aids have an opportunity to promote the importance of rest and recovery during challenging times. Parents, in particular, are a key target for the sleep market as their lifestyle, family duties and lack of self-prioritization inhibit the ability to rest and take breaks. Parents connect sufficient sleep with feeling their best, ranking reduced stress and improved energy as the most important benefits of sleep. OTC sleep aids can help parents achieve a good night’s sleep in light of busy schedules, endless responsibilities and taking on new roles during the COVID-19 outbreak.