Global survey: Consumers will spend more for products befitting a healthier lifestyle


ZURICH — Bain & Co. released findings Thursday from an online survey of 1,200 people living in New York, Munich and New Delhi that found most would readily trade premium medical care for access to healthier living options, such as more nutritious food, health education, exercise and innovative healthcare technologies. In addition, respondents reported they were willing to pay more for improved health and well-being — underpinning an important shift in mindset away from health ‘care’ and toward ‘prevention’ that is hastening demand for products and services and creating significant business opportunities around the world.

According to the survey, 9-in-10 respondents, rich and poor, said they were willing to spend and invest more in products that support healthy living — even as much as 5% or more of household income. Eight-in-10 reported significant impediments created by everyday life that interfere with a healthy living regimen, such as stress, lack of time and poor habits.

More than half readily admit they are not meeting the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum physical activity levels. And more than 70% want health insurers to focus more on keeping people healthy, educating patients and rewarding them for healthy behavior.

“A healthy lifestyle is no longer just a story in the style section or something only fitness fanatics value. For a growing number of people around the world, health and well-being are becoming the new status symbol,” said Norbert Hültenschmidt, a Bain partner in Zurich who heads the firm’s Healthcare Practice in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and leader of Bain’s ‘healthy living’ global initiative. “Consumers understand what they need to do, but they need a lot more help doing it and enabling them to move from good intentions to healthy behaviors. The ‘new producers’ of healthy living, those that personalize their products and offerings creatively, or develop the market for a product yet to be invented, will create enormous value — for shareholders and the world.”

The survey findings carry broad implications for businesses, with the greatest opportunities seemingly in healthcare payers, providers, insurance, pharmaceuticals, medical and consumer technology and consumer goods. 

New Yorkers report having the best understanding of what it takes to maintain a healthy living lifestyle (85%). Germans had an understanding nearly on par with New Yorkers, but had the least interest of the three groups in wanting to follow a healthier lifestyle, or saying that healthy living was among their top three personal priorities. Indians, for whom the survey sample skewed toward the more highly educated, were also the most eager for healthier options of all types, and were the most willing to spend on online health services; though responses in New Delhi revealed contradictions, such as reporting to be the most well-read on healthy living topics without demonstrating greater knowledge through their responses; and though Indians reported being the most engaged in physical activity, they were the group most preoccupied with chronic disease, with more than half of those under the age of 40 years citing a fear of contracting one within the decade.

High stress levels present the biggest impediment to healthier living for residents in New York and in New Delhi. Munich residents named poor habits as the biggest hurdle. New Delhi residents appeared the most constrained, citing such factors as time and expense.

New York and Munich residents were more inclined than Delhiites to oppose government regulation and intervention for healthier living (e.g., limiting calories, transfats and salts) and imposing higher insurance premiums for high risk factors such as obesity. New York and Munich respondents don’t trust food and beverage companies for reliable health information. Delhiites are more trusting across the board, especially for pharmaceutical firms; hence business barriers in India are potentially reduced. 

While Munich residents were less likely overall to spend on healthy habits compared to New Yorkers and Delhiites, the one significant exception was for healthier food: More than half of Munich respondents said they would spend more for it. 

Consumer goods companies — including food producers and retailers, sporting goods and exercise equipment makers — have significant potential upside from rising demand for healthier options, even at greater cost. But firms need to recalibrate their offerings to make them more personalized, convenient and accessible, the report found. Tech and telecommunications firms that can provide digital tools and other facilitating products and services will be in demand particularly in India, where demand for online health services is most pronounced. 

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