Is Self-Directed Health and Wellness an Opportunity for Brands?

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” Hippocrates said this around 400 B.C. And the food and Pharma industries are finally starting to catch on.

From fitness trackers that let us obsess over our heart rates and sleep patterns to self-administered genetic tests like 23andme, Self-Directed “Health and Wellness” is here to stay. And as consumers’ access to personalized health information continues to grow, I believe it’s only going to become more widespread.

Today’s health-conscious consumer is intimate with the impact food has on their body and overall health. They’re scheduling “well visits”’ to discuss specialized diets (food, supplements, etc.) to optimize their health, well-being and overall longevity versus the traditional ‘sick visit’ of the past.

And while consumers have long had the aversion to prescription medication, especially for chronic conditions, the wellness focus (superfoods, herbs, supplements, etc.) has piqued consumers’ interest as one way to possibly reduce their dependence on medicine now and in the future.

What is surprising with the fusion of wellness, food, and supplements, however, is the overt connection to the pharmaceutical industry. Yes, Food and Pharma. Who would have thunk it? And it’s brilliant.

What does all this mean for marketers? Forward-thinking brands know there’s a lot of great science out there. And doctors and scientists know there’s a lot of great food and alternative medicine out there. So some of biggest everyday consumer brands like Nestle and Amazon are looking to the pharmaceutical sector for investment opportunities and MD’s are helping their patients make decisions about the food they buy to prevent the need for prescription medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine has been teaching that a healthy diet is key to preventing disease and that food is medicine for thousands of years. It’s about time we caught on.

At some grocery stores in California, consumers use the “Shop with your Doc” program. A doctor actually goes to the grocery store with their patients to help them choose healthy food. The doctors have set appointments with some patients, but then also stick around to help others with any questions they might have. Food is being used in a new way and brands are starting to notice.

At the forefront of this movement on the food side is Nestle. They began buying and partnering with clinical wellness firms to apply scientific knowledge to food products. Their goal is to improve the health of consumers through food. They made deals with seven companies like Novartis Medical Nutrition and Vitaflo between 2007 and 2016.They now spend more than any other food company on R&D and with hopes of creating foods like frozen pizza that can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. What an incredible way to use technology to enhance the health properties the food already has.

Medical institutions are also starting to make a philosophical switch to becoming “health organizations” versus “healthcare organizations”. Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital just completed a pilot Therapeutic Food pantry program where patients were offered food prescribed for their condition. Dr. Rita Nguyen, who leads the hospital’s Healthy Food Initiative, says they “really want to link food and medicine,” so along with the food, they provide training on how to prepare it in a way that helps treat medical conditions.

And there are new brands launching every day to help consumers change their lifestyles and not only prevent but fight disease. Intelligent Quisine is one of my new faves. Chef’s and physicians partnered to create yummy, pre-packaged meal plans that physicians are prescribing to patients to treat medical issues like diabetes, heart disease, and weight.

This is a huge cultural shift that eventually will impact the way consumers see food and be a huge opportunity for brands to play a bigger, more important role in the lives of consumers…if they do it right.

There are so many opportunities for brands to get involved with this evolution of food, health, and healthcare. If you want to find explore where your brand could fit in, let’s talk.

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