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The Global LOHAS Movement

By: Ted Ning
Posted: February 24, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Yoga, hybrid vehicles, clean technologies, organic farming, ecotourism, acupuncture and socially responsible investing are only a few products and services that are attractive to LOHAS consumers who have been leading the charge for these initiatives to be adopted by conventional markets.

The LOHAS consumer

The LOHAS consumer, in particular, represents the portion of the population that is pushing for product innovation. Gone are the days of sacrificing quality for the sake of environmental commitment. LOHAS consumers demand equal or better quality from a product, as well as depth and transparency from product manufacturers. The people who make up this segment are also predictors of upcoming trends, because they are early adopters of many attitudinal and behavioral dynamics. The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), creators of The LOHAS Report: Consumers & Sustainability Series, has developed a segmentation model that defines consumers in the following categories.

  • Naturalites
  • Conventionals
  • Drifters
  • Unconcerned

LOHAS. Since the initial NMI study in 2002, LOHAS consumers have comprised approximately 13–19% of the adult population in the United States This percentage has remained steady throughout the years, even though many of the LOHAS products and behaviors have been adopted by the mainstream. Their usage of LOHAS products exceeds most other segments, and they are continually demanding greater sensitivity to these issues from numerous corporate activities. Consumers within the segment continue to be early adopters, influential with friends and family, less price-sensitive and more brand-loyal. In essence, the social structure and internalized values of the LOHAS consumer make them an attractive target for a variety of strategic marketing activities.

Naturalites. The naturalites segment historically has been one of the largest of the U.S. adult population. They are zealous about their own personal health, and use many healthy and natural consumer packaged goods (CPGs). They are attracted to air purifiers, nontoxic paint, hypoallergenic mattresses and other health-related products due to the specific health benefits offered. Naturalites are not as concerned about the fair labor practices of companies, if a product is made using recycled materials or whether the product can be recycled in the future. Although they are less committed to the notions of holistic sustainability, they are also a primary target for many CPG companies, or for companies with a more mainstream proposition that have a strategic desire to appeal to a larger segment of the U.S. population. New parents concerned with a child’s diet and exposure to chemicals, or individuals with health concerns, typically fall into the naturalite category. This is an entry point for many who then evolve to adopt more LOHAS-oriented concepts as they become more educated.

Conventionals. This is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population due to the economic downturn, and the shift in consumer attitudes toward cost-savings. Companies that offer fiscally responsible products, such as energy-efficient electronics and appliances or green building products resonate with this group. Conventionals’ attitudes are not linearly categorized, but this segment shows a predisposition to various practical LOHAS products and activities. In some cases, they are more behaviorally engaged than naturalites, but not as much so as LOHAS consumers.