Men are now outspending women in the quest for optimum health, reports Matt Chittock – so how should health stores adapt?
It’s an open secret that, aside from supporting male privilege, the patriarchy is doing men’s health no particular favours. Grinding 24/7 to compete at work (or on Tinder) takes its toll – while bottling up associated stress and frustration leads to all kinds of health problems, both mental and physical.
But research shows that things are changing. A poll from the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) says that men are now spending more on their health than women. This is a big opportunity that looks set to grow. So how does this trend translate onto the health store shop floor?
Happily, as Richard Austin from Rainbow Wholefoods in Norwich points out, the men shopping at health stores are probably less likely to adhere to gender (or health) norms than the rest of the population.
“We’ve always had plenty of male customers over the years, from the earnest macrobiotics [enthusiasts] of the early days to the earnest vegans of more recent times,” he says. “There does seem to be less of a stereotypical ‘women as shoppers’ divide as the years roll on and Norwich has always been pretty good at adopting positive changes, so we are used to seeing males, as well as females, who are engaged with improving their health through good nutrition.”
Austin says that his store doesn’t sell bodybuilding products or gender-specific supplements, so doesn’t really encourage a male bias. That’s except for items like vitamin K (which men might require more of than women) and his range of organic beers (which, despite more visible female drinkers, has always been a male-skewed SKU).
Focus on stress
Of course, there are a lot of good quality all-round supplements available for men. But right now it may pay for stores to focus on one of the high-profile health problems mentioned earlier: stress.
It isn’t a problem that’s all in the head. Research has found that men aged between 20 to 55 years of age have a higher risk than women of high blood pressure, and heart attack and stroke, partly because of stress.
“There does seem to be less of a stereotypical ‘women as shoppers’ divide as the years
“Stress levels can be managed naturally through exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep and through good nutrition,” comments nutritional biochemist Jamie Christie.
“Vitamins and minerals play an essential role in mental health and brain function; the vitamins C, B12, B6, biotin, folic acid, niacin and the mineral magnesium maintain normal psychological function. Pantothenic acid will maintain normal mental performance. It goes without saying if you look after your brain it will cope better with the everyday stresses life throws at us.”
Meanwhile, there’s another surefire route through which men can soothe away stress. Rather than reach for a beer, many are finding it’s more soothing to go for a decent organic moisturizer.
“Although grooming hasn’t taken off nearly as fast as trend forecasters were predicting around five or six years ago, lockdown has boosted online sales of men’s skincare, hair and self-care products pretty significantly,” says Fiona Klonarides, director of the Beauty Shortlist Awards.
She believes that since lockdown men have realized that clean and green natural products can help them look and feel good. This has knock-on benefits for mental health too. It might also become a lasting post-pandemic ritual once men have to get off Zoom and present themselves for public scrutiny in a high-def world.
“The more uncertain the world around us feels, the more important our wellbeing and sense of stability become, and skincare is part of this,” Klonarides adds.
She notes how clean brands like Inlight and Jane Scrivner now have their own signature collections ‘for him’ and also pinpoints natural deodorant as providing an accessible entry point to getting men on board.
“Planet-friendly deodorants have mushroomed recently,” she says. “There are lots of stellar ones about now including Proverb Skincare’s Refillable Wild Mint & Eucalyptus version, Battle Green’s zero plastic offering and Haoma’s unisex-appeal juniper, grapefruit and tea tree ten-plant blend Fresh Organic Deodorant Spray.”
Solving problems through products is an important driver for men too. “Itchy scalps are one of the most common skincare issues, especially in men,” says Charlotte Vøhtz, founder of Green People.
“Overloading hair with products containing silicones and SLS can exacerbate scalp problems. The organic actives in our Green People for Men No.10 Itch Away Shampoo will keep hair fresh and clean without irritation. Antibacterial tea tree and pineapple enzymes guard against a build-up of dead skin cells to keep the scalp flake-free.”
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• 60 capsules – 30 days’ supply.
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