What's 'healthonism'? 3 emerging health trends in 2016

In December, J. Walter Thompson Intelligence published The Future 100, a report on 100 trends to watch in 2016. We’re already seeing a number of key trends play out in the health sector: new natural beauty, a revolution in feminine care, and a growing affinity between exercise and drinking that we call “healthonism.”

New natural beauty

Consumers are seeking out product information online and are becoming increasingly skeptical about mainstream brands. The health and beauty landscape is responding to concern about industrial pollutants and toxins, and new boutique brands are tapping into natural branding and messaging.

U.K. brand Liha makes beauty products based on African recipes in small batches. For example, Haeckels, which is based in the U.K. seaside town of Margate, sources natural ingredients like seaweed and uses pre-industrial techniques to create its line. Brands such as Yüli employ advanced skin technology and botanic research to ensure products can compete in efficacy as well as ethics. Mother Dirt is a range of cleansers, shampoos and mists that contain beneficial bacteria.

This shift in attitude points to a self-confident, engaged and sophisticated consumer who questions the norm and scrutinizes the messaging presented by mainstream brands. Consumers’ holistic view of beauty products is telling— they view products through the lens of their physical wellbeing as well as that of the environment.

Feminine care revolution

Tampons are getting a makeover— moving from unmentionable necessity to celebrated cool-girl staple. Look no further than “The 5th Wave,” a new Hollywood thriller in which its heroine, Cassie, takes a break from the action to pick up some tampons at a convenience store.

The politics of feminine care have made headlines recently over issues related to access and gender equality. In 2015, social media began erupting with outrage over tax regulations that designate feminine care products as a “luxury” in the European Union. In the United States, the California state legislature recently introduced a bill that would classify feminine hygiene products as medical necessities, making them tax free.

While mega-brands Tampax, Kotex and Playtex have long dominated the feminine hygiene industry, direct-to-consumer newcomer Lola, founded by Dartmouth College grads Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, represents a new approach. Lola manufactures its own hypoallergenic cotton tampons, which are free of additives, synthetics, chemicals and dyes, and, unlike mainstream brands, contain no artificial fibers such as polyester and rayon. Lola is committed to transparency and convenience. Other features include minimalist branding and an intuitive subscription model with options for delivery customization.

New alternatives to traditional pads and tampons are also emerging. Looncup is a “smart” menstrual cup that aims to “redefine menstruation”— it communicates with an app to track and analyze menstrual patterns.

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Some health-conscious millennials are offsetting consumption of alcohol with antioxidants and healthy mixers— mashing up exercise with hedonism, and flocking to a growing number of exercise-meets-drinking events.

Earlier this year, London’s House of Voga, which combines yoga with the expressive vogueing dance style of the ’80s, co-hosted a party with Mayfair nightclub Bonbonniere. Voga Bonbonniere began with a one-hour voga class before proceeding to drinks and dancing into the early hours. Fitness club Equinox’s London Kensington location hosts quarterly After Dark events for members and their guests, who are treated to a range of different yoga classes, guest instructors, DJ sets and cocktails courtesy of Mahiki.

A 2015 study published in the journal Health Psychology found that people tend to drink “more than usual on the same days that they engage in more physical activity than usual,” according to the authors.

The trend can also be seen in some new beverage products, with nutritious cold-pressed juices becoming a popular vehicle for healthier cocktails. Cold-pressed, non-alcoholic juices by U.S. brand CleanDrinking are all-natural, low-calorie cocktail mixers designed to “support a balanced lifestyle of mindful drinking.” Flavors include Hotamelon Tequila Cleanse and RaspberryAddict Vodka Cleanse.

Consumers are engaging in health and wellbeing in a contradictory, divergent, have-it-all way, putting healthy habits alongside fun.

Among Lucie Greene’s credentials, she is the worldwide director of the Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson’s trend forecasting, consultancy and innovation unit. She is also a public speaker, and has appeared as a trend expert on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, as well as in print publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian. She has a decade of experience contributing to publications like The Financial Times and Vogue UK as an editor and writer. She is also a thought leadership columnist for CampaignLive.