Consumers prioritizing relaxation as money concerns grow: study

Dive Brief:

  • Consumers are increasingly stressed by money concerns and the lingering pandemic, and seeking out products that support basic need states like relaxation and sleep, and focusing less on those with plant-based and sustainability attributes, according to the most recent analysis of consumer survey data and social media keywords by Brightfield Group’s Evergi platform.
  • Half of U.S. adults were seeking relaxation and stress relief in fourth-quarter 2021, up 13% since 2020, according to Brightfield’s online survey of 5,000 people. As a result, interest in functional ingredients that support relaxation is rising, including chamomile, ashwaganda, Reishi mushrooms and CBD. 
  • This consumer shift toward meeting basic need states around relaxation and sleep could help explain some of the recent slowdown in sales for categories such as plant-based, especially as economic concerns have grown thanks to rising inflation.

Dive Insight:

On a scale of 1 to 5, nearly two-thirds of people have a stress level of 3 or higher, according to the Brightfield Group’s survey of 5,000 consumers. The number of people stressed by money has risen 4 percentage points from the previous quarter, with COVID-19 concerns up 3.3 points.

And it’s no wonder why: The combination of a neverending pandemic and the weight of higher prices for food, fuel and other life needs has been a toxic combination when it comes to overall wellbeing. The Brightfield analysis took place between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2021, a period when many consumers were focused on money, but before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has triggered its own inflationary forces. It would not be surprising to see money rising even further as a concern in the early months of 2022, even as pandemic worries fade along with the omicron variant.

Interestingly, Evergi recorded a 4.6-point drop in plant-based need states in the fourth quarter vs. the third quarter of 2021, a 4.4-point decline in sustainability and a 3.8-point decrease in mental health. The falling interest in plant-based is especially noteworthy, since it seems to have happened around the same timeframe that manufacturers of meat alternatives began reporting lower-than-expected sales for their products.

So what types of products are winners with consumers in this stressed mindframe? Brightfield pointed to sleep- and relaxation-supporting ingredients like L-theanine, an amino acid that is featured in PepsiCo’s Driftwell functional water, and reishi mushrooms, found in MondelÄ“z’s Millie Gram line of nut butters. 

Some consumers are also turning to chamomile for sleep and relaxation, mainly in tea, Brightfield noted. Tea manufacturers such as Hain Celestial with its Celestial Seasonings line and Twinings have recently rolled out a series of functional offerings targeted at wellness and rest. In 2021, Hain added a Sleep variety to its Tea Well line with chamomile and melatonin.

Pre-mixed cocktails are a surprise winner too among a growing number of stressed-out consumers, according to Brightfield’s analysis of survey and social media data. Nearly 47% sought out these products for relaxation, ahead of celebratory purposes, its Evergi platform found. The segment has drawn interest and investment from several large CPGs, including Beam Suntory, Anheuser-Busch, Diageo and even nonalcoholic beverage players such as Coca-Cola.

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