So, what’s changed over the past few years that has allowed this trend to become a routine staple? For insight, we need to go back in time and history to the root of foods as medicine -- or, more specifically, foods for beauty benefits. Traditional Chinese medicine, which looks at the body in a holistic way, worked with minerals and herbs to both improve health and the appearance of skin and hair. Similar systems of medicine exist in other East and South Asian countries, like India, Korea and Japan, where herbal medicine is called Ayurveda and Kampo, respectively.
Fast forward a couple thousand years, and (not surprisingly) the highest concentration of beauty supplement consumers are found in the Asia Pacific region. Food as medicine is not a trend there, but rather an integral part of their day-to-day consumption. But it’s been tough for US consumers to wrap their heads around this concept. Think about it: Making the leap from antioxidant-rich teas to collagen drinks for skin health is easier than jumping from convenience and fast foods to long-term anti-ageing solutions.
Until now. Those US consumers filling up on fast foods are waking up -- quickly. What’s changed? First of all, look around. People are getting bigger and older. Never before has the impact of the right or wrong foods been more evident. Over two-thirds of people in the US are considered overweight, and it is projected that current obesity levels will rise from 1 in every 3 adults to 1 in 2 adults (or 50 percent) by 2030. (Source: WHO). As a result, consumers are now making a clear connection between what we eat and how we look and feel.
Never before have we lived longer and been confronted with the consequences of ageing. And consumers are now interested in maintaining their youth as much possible.
Globalization has helped import Eastern philosophies into Western living at an increasingly fast pace. Trends travel across borders, where they start in local communities and later spread (if worthy) to society as a whole. For example: In Southern California, eating probiotic rich foods, like Kimchi, no longer requires a trip to Koreatown. They are found in every Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market.
This explains the trend, but how about the norm? Traditionally trends were converted to norms through mass media. The moment something hit a popular TV show it became part of our living rooms and weekly routines. Now mass media has lost its monopoly and dominance to social media. That’s why we need to look at social as the ultimate norm maker. And what are people ‘obsessed’ with on social media? Travel, Politics, Lifestyle, Kids, Pets and (drum roll please) Beauty and Food, especially on the top spots!
Furthermore, never before has appearance been so important. We are constantly on the hunt for comments and likes on social media. Not only is there a great general interest in food, but also a need for each post to look beautiful. There are hundreds of thousands of micro-influencers that now monetize this direct correlation between looks and likes. Beauty foods and nutricosmetics are no longer seen as a one-off luxury but as a real investment in your beauty future. Therefore it may come at no surprise that women aged 24-34 are my company’s largest demographic.
Advances in science and research have now made it possible to formulate exciting new products that go far beyond multivitamins. Major retailers are waking up to this new norm, too. As co-founder and CEO of a beauty supplement company, I get weekly calls from leading retailers who are interested in building a “beauty from within” category. If consumer adaptation levels in the US reach anywhere near Japanese or Korean market penetration -- where value spent in Beauty VMS (Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements) is around 20 percent -- we are looking at a $6-7 billion opportunity in the US alone.
Based on consumer behavior, demographics, technology, advances in science and a huge market opportunity, we at HUM firmly believe that ingestible beauty is the new norm -- and it’s here to stay for generations to come.
About the Author
Walter Faulstroh is a serial health and wellness entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, CA. His first venture, V Water, the No1 vitamin water in the UK, was acquired by PepsiCo Intl in 2008. His second venture, FitForFree UK is one of Europe’s most profitable health and fitness chains and his latest endeavor Hum Nutrition, a subscription service to personalized beauty supplements that is also sold through Sephora has seen phenomenal growth rates since its inception a few years ago. Walter has been entrepreneurial from an early age on, selling cherries at the age of 4 on the doorstep of his fathers’ factory and holds a degree in Finance from NYU and an MBA from INSEAD business school (ranked No 1 globally by the FT in 2016).