The impact of health and wellness is on most consumers’ minds, Nielsen’s consumer research has found.

Sarah Schmansky, Nielsen’s strategy leader for health, wellness and “fresh,” moderated a panel at the GMDC Health-Beauty-Wellness Conference in Orlando today that brainstormed how consumers are shopping for health.

Underneath that “how” is more than the next-best-me-too-product for allergy or acne. It’s about efficacy of the product at the core, but bundled with social responsibility and sustainability, informative packaging, transparency of ingredients, and education that empowers the individual.

“Self-care is the driver of growth,” Sarah began the discussion. But these needs under the self-care umbrella are complex. The way Nielsen looks at this, four macro trends of aging (as Boomers age into older and more fragile stages), ailments (with 4 in 10 U.S. households dealing with a chronic condition), nutrition (where most people look to food-as-medicine to treat those ailments, but need a lot more help to identify just what exactly feeds “my” health), and sustainability.

“We need clear sight-lines for what’s in the products,” Sarah explained, to the issue of consumers seeking transparency and responsibility. Thus, one of the growing facets of health-beauty-wellness products are those that feature “free-from” ingredients – such as paraben-free in cosmetics, and gluten-free in food for people managing gut-health issues.

This extends beyond human (parent and child) health to animal health: a growing cadre of pet food buyers who love their fur babies are scrutinizing ingredient meat in dog food, Sarah said.

The health consumer is also moving from episodic and reactive care to preventive and health-boosting purchases. In cough-cold, retailers are selling more Vitamin C and black elderberry-embedded products; in GI supplements, probiotics continue to grow. Retailers are seeing this throughout the store, not just in the shelves adjacent to the pharmacy: it’s around the perimeter as well as within the center aisles where consumers seek and find products with the promise of boosting resilience and to prevent the onset of a variety of conditions.

An important finding is that this trend is not just happening among Millennial Moms and younger shoppers. Clean label and the search for health benefits is happening across different consumer personae and shopping channels, from grocery stores to mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs, and — what may surprise you — convenience stores.

As an example of the C-store joining the trend to fresh and healthy, Sarah pointed to 7-11’s private label of cold-pressed juices. This seemingly premium product is now stocked where you typically think of picking up beef jerky, tobacco products, and maybe petrol at the pump.

From produce to packaged products like shampoo and skin care, watch for “fresh” to be inside: we saw tomato, grapefruit, coconut, and avocado in the new product Showcase exhibit this weekend. Avocado oil, Sarah told us, can be found now in 31 categories across the store, and has 11% household penetration in the U.S. whether in health, beauty, or food products. She says if we’re observant, we can see the same phenomenon with kale, cranberry, and even cauliflower growing as a fresh-inside component for healthy consumer shopping.

At the moment in the natural products marketplace, it’s all about turmeric: in the raw root in produce, ground turmeric at the spice kiosk, and inside supplements in the vitamins/supplements aisle. One innovative grocer has education tables hosted by trained store staff that in fact feature these three turmeric SKUs, to educate prospective consumers on the category — showing the customer how to incorporate turmeric into their lifestyle.

The bottom-line that serves both the consumer and the retailer: one ingredient can make its way across and around the store. As long as it’s fresh, authentic, and efficacious.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  With the health consumer always-on and connected, authenticity, evidence, and transparency are in-demand.

A key trend in the naturals market is Trustworthiness, Tested: the bottom line for this: “Living in an increasingly tainted world makes it all the more important for brands to know exactly what is—and more importantly what is not—in their products through rigorous testing to maintain consumer trust. Verifiable certifications can help communicate such test results to shoppers.”

Health consumers, can, in fact, handle the truth and want the truth from both the legacy healthcare industry — doctors, hospitals, health plans and pharma — and the retail health products and services that are shoppable.

In fact, more healthcare services are shoppable, especially with growing transparency of price and some quality metrics available to patients and caregivers.

There are lessons that the healthcare industry can and must learn from retail health — especially with respect to innovation, nimbleness, and meeting consumers based on their personal values and preferences.

Pay note: the social determinants of health can be bolstered at convenience stores, grocers, and mass merchants where millions of health citizens walk through doors every day.

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