The Self-Care Snare

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VP, Client Experience

How inaccurately defining a culture can cost a CPG billions

In Nestlé’s latest move to capitalize on the growing demand for minerals and nutritional supplements, the Swiss food giant has spent $5.75 billion to buy the main brands from Bountiful Co.

In fact, this Wall Street Journal article goes on to say that these types of acquisitions are being driven by CPGs like Nestlé scrambling “to add health and wellness brands as shoppers spend more on self-care.”

But this begs an important question:

Is there a natural, consumer-led connection between the culture of supplements and the culture of self-care? Or are CPG companies making billion dollar assumptions without understanding the consumer-led perspective?

To answer this question we decided to leverage the Motivbase Trends platform.

In what follows, we use our anthro-lens to see if supplements naturally emerge when you explore the culture of self-care. Or if the self-care assumption could lead to Nestlé trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

The Consumer-led POV:

First and foremost, when we examine the culture of “self-care” we can see that it is, in fact, growing.

This culture is currently seeing 86 million consumers directly and indirectly engage with the topics that are linked to practicing self-care. And, that population is predicted to grow by 11% in the next 12-24 months.

Additionally, we can see that consumers are in agreement with what “practicing self care” means. This is, in essence, what maturity represents.

The more a culture matures, the more consumers are using similar language (imagine people using synonyms) when discussing and defining the culture.

Cultures in the early consensus are still malleable. They are being shaped by the consumer, and can be shaped by brands or companies that invest in educating the masses further.

But as cultures mature and enter into the mainstream (or mainstream acceptance as seen in our Zone of Innovation), they become more established in the mind of the consumer.

Often we are tasked with the goal of finding cultures (or trends) that are just about to enter mainstream acceptance.

Because once a culture passes into the established idea territory, they become rigid in the mind of the consumer. There is general consensus, and consumers have a checklist in their mind of “table stakes” that need to be satisfied if you want your product or service to be relevant to people in that culture. In such an environment, the only way to innovate is to achieve complete compliance with the consumer’s expectations (their mental specifications).

Practicing Self-Care is almost an established idea.

As we can see in the chart above, the culture of practicing self-care isn’t just mainstream. It is inching closer to the established idea territory meaning that the expectations and needs of the consumer are quite set.

It will be difficult to force a new idea into this culture.

So do vitamins and supplements naturally emerge?

Short answer. No.

At their core, consumers who are engaged in this culture are driven by the belief that it is important to work towards establishing a healthy routine and strive to achieve balance.

This is bigger than just taking natural steps to improve one’s physical well being. It means caring for your mental wellbeing, and considering your spiritual wellbeing.

But, when we examine the most dominant meanings (or topics) that naturally emerge in the culture of practicing self care, vitamins and supplements do not naturally emerge.

Instead, we see that the consumer-led POV is one that is looking to find natural ways to overcome anxiety, recondition the mind to think more positively, increase exercise and improve overall sleep.

Even the consumer’s emotional DNA illustrates that these consumers are looking for the most natural ways possible to achieve the goals above.

The consumer’s primary attitude is to seek out products that have undergone the least amount of modification from their original state (these are considered the safest).

This attitude pertains to both the processing a product has undergone, as well as the source ingredients used to make it. The closer the product and/or ingredients are to their naturally occurring state, the better the product becomes.

Self-Care versus Overall Health.

While the topic of “Self Care” may get more mentions, it is the topic and culture of “Overall Health” that holds the deepest, and most valuable meaning for vitamins and supplements.

Granted, this culture is currently relevant to a smaller group of consumers (68.7 Million Americans between the ages of 18-64) it is predicted to grow and reach 89.3 million consumers in the next 12-24 months.

We also see that it is less mature, with higher growth trajectory than “self-care” meaning there is more opportunity to shape the narrative around who a supplement may provide the added benefits one needs as they look to take control of their health.

So do vitamins and supplements naturally emerge?

Short answer. Yes. Extensively.

Dietary supplements, nutritional supplements and health supplements are all front and center when we examine the culture of “overall health”.

Secondly, we can see that the consumer is focused on “wellness” or finding a way to improve their diet, exercise regime and their approach to supplementation in order to improve their immunity, overcome weight issues and protect their general health.

Even the emotional DNA for this group reinforces a greater openness to supplements.

Yes, they too look for natural and unaltered products to feel like their choices are better for their health. But their drive to achieve balance and the fact that they are motivated to incorporate technology and science as a way to improve human life makes this culture more relevant to a company looking to drive growth in the vitamin and supplement industry.

Looking at Supplements in the Self-Care culture:

If you are CPG making investments into supplements and vitamins, you need to be aware of where there is a natural fit for your future business in the hearts and minds of the consumers who will finance your return on your investment.

Currently, the cultural connection between supplements and self-care is just not as strong as it is to the culture of personal performance or the culture of improving one’s overall health.

When we force our system to identify the intersection point between self-care and supplements, we can see some interesting areas of focus present themselves.

For example, the role of sleep is front and center. And the role of supplements in helping facilitate better sleep hygiene would be a key starting point for any company looking to forge a stronger connection between supplements and self-care.

It also appears that if you can illustrate the role supplements can play in improving mood, the more likely you are to drive relevance within the self-care culture.

But you need to understand that this is not only a less mature culture but was also until recently, volatile.

Is the culture growing? Yes.

But it is still in early consensus and still not predicted to enter the mainstream in the next 12-24 months and given its volatile past could get disrupted again.


This is not to say that Nestlé’s investment will not payoff. Supplements and vitamins are growing in the midst of this pandemic. But it’s less about self-care than it is about investing in one’s overall health and wellbeing. The distinction between the two can make or break success here for the company.

Which is why you will constantly hear us say the following mantra – meaning matters.

But if your goal is to identify areas of opportunities in the next 12-24 months to reap the benefits of the acquisition, self-care is a snare that will prevent you from tapping into and connecting with the consumers who are naturally looking for the solution you have to offer.

What do you want to research today?