D2C in Health/Wellness CPGs: Strategic, Social, and Policy Considerations

D2C in Health/Wellness CPGs: Strategic, Social, and Policy Considerations

This report analyzes the digital tactics of consumer goods with health/wellness positioning. The pandemic has highly incentivized direct-to-consumer (D2C / DTC) business models and digital adaptations, while also leading to a surge of consumer interest in health/wellness categories, in particular, but this opportunity can be more complex than it initially seems. Therefore, all CPG brands with products that could be categorized under health/wellness must explore new, growing, and more integral digital channels with nuance if they want to compete effectively.

The report deep dives into the parallels and precedents of this market, considering technological implementations, utilizing an actionable, strategic framework, anticipating practical and brand-related challenges, and leveraging a wide variety of case studies from health/wellness categories. This unique analysis peels back the layers of digital commerce to reveal the social, political, and even geographical drivers of health/wellness sales and industry practices.

Many consumers are already aware of the underlying psychological dynamics and impulses in these categories but they still explore new digitally native brands with the hope of finding greater relief and wellbeing, or at least welcome distraction. This is more than a trend. It’s a new consumer lens being applied to multiple product categories, and this perception may become a generational reality. This is also occurring globally.


This approximately 30,000-word report is structured as follows:
• Executive Summary: For the time-constrained businessperson, the most salient and actionable points are highlighted here.
• Fundamental Changes for Categories and Consumers: A large amount of quantitative and qualitative insights on the health/wellness consumer have been aggregated and analyzed in the first section. This section also explores the fundamental ethical questions facing these categories.
• D2C Health/Wellness Brand Strategies: This section gleans insights from multiple product categories and illuminates CPG strategies by telling the business stories of a premium chocolate brand, a functional chocolate milk, and a fast-growing kombucha, in addition to other industry examples. The section begins with an in-depth exploration of product recategorizations from “vice” to “virtue,” which is a prominent strategy and trend in CPG and clearly evident in D2C. These recategorizations may be benefited by particular pricing and marketing adjustments.
• Direct Selling Parallels: The report then takes a deep dive into the social and policy drivers of direct selling, indicating the potential relevance to D2C and influencer partnerships in health/wellness categories. This section is meant to inspire the reform of problematic practices.
• Supply Chain Developments and Digital Storytelling: The final section looks at supply chain developments, the relevance of stakeholder theory, and the potential for effective, accountable, digital storytelling in this area.

This report will provide comprehensive answers to the following key questions:
• How have new technologies transformed the business practices of direct response, mail order, and even direct selling? Which aspects or techniques are still relevant to D2C?
• How do broader digital ecosystems widen opportunities, augment strategic capabilities, more closely link revenue with quality, increase consumer scrutiny, and exacerbate or expose the fundamental, psychological tensions of health/wellness categories?
• How has the pandemic acted as a driver of consumption in health/wellness categories, as well as investments in those categories?
• How are beauty and health/wellness categories blurring even further during the pandemic?
• How does gender appear to affect perceptions, purchase decisions, and consumption in health/wellness categories?
• Are the key health/wellness growth drivers sustainable? How can brands and retailers digitally grab attention, set expectations, and create lifestyle associations, without compromising their customer satisfaction or long-term positioning?
• How might D2C enable the healthier reformulation of products as well as greater supply chain transparency?
• What were the results of the various health/wellness consumer surveys conducted during the pandemic?
• As popular notions regarding “self-care” and “wellness” are both commodified and re-conceptualized, within an inherently unwell environment (the global pandemic), how should brands and retailers try to connect with people?
• What factors contribute to many people’s sporadic attempts at self-care and the widespread belief that their own wellness is, essentially, unattainable in full?
• How do real or perceived “vice-virtue” product categorizations, or re-categorizations, affect the pricing strategies of brands and retailers?
• How is D2C a natural enabler of brands that want to redevelop a vice product and position it as healthy (or as less unhealthy)? Why are qualities such as scarcity, nostalgia, and curiosity relevant to this strategy?
• How should D2C health/wellness brands with resource constraints, or insufficient market share, leverage digital testing, analytics, effective market segmentation, and agile methodologies in order to achieve growth?
• How are these same brands adapting to overcome the disruptions in their supply chains and brick-and-mortar retail?
• How are D2C health/wellness brands telling the stories of their supply chains and brand origins through digital content? What are the ethical implications of this?


Policy2050 excels at identifying the strategies and patterns within complex data that is gathered through exhaustive secondary and primary research. This process includes publicly available sources, such as annual reports, academic journals, consumer surveys, trade publications, industry symposia, and podcasts, along with interviews and inputs from a wide network of market experts and internal knowledge. Strategic perspectives are leveraged from across the value chain and from relevant tech vendors causing disruptions or reconfigurations in markets.

Information is filtered and validated through this lens of expertise and scrutiny, or contextualized to expose differences in results and industry disagreements. Perceptions of current trends, as reflected in reporting, often translate into actions and investments with consequences. The many hyperlinks included throughout this report help to ensure that important figures, strategic statements, and other market characterizations are easily and fully traceable.

All of this analysis is delivered within an actionable framework that outlines best practices, proposes innovations or adaptations, and extracts insights from case studies. Infographics and imagery are used to express key concepts and enliven this comprehensive overview where appropriate.


Companies mentioned in this report include:

• Athena Club
• Birchbox
• Bobo’s
• Health-Ade
• To’ak Chocolate
• Slate Milk
• Super Coffee
• Starbucks
• Lululemon Athletica
• Vagaro
• Ulta Beauty
• Whole Foods (Amazon)
• Walmart
• Avon
• Herbalife Nutrition
• Trustpilot

1. Introduction to D2C Health/Wellness
1.1 Key Benefits of this Report
1.2 Target Audience
1.3 Companies Mentioned in this Report
1.4 Methodology
2. Executive Summary
2.1 Health/Wellness Consumer and Category Insights
2.2 D2C Health/Wellness Brand Strategies
2.3 Direct Selling Parallels
2.4 Supply Chain Developments and Digital Storytelling
3. Fundamental Changes for Categories and Consumers
3.1 Multi-dimensional wellness
3.2 Mental health
3.3 Gender
3.4 Work-related
3.5 Obesity
3.6 Younger Demographics
3.7 Health/wellness product category interests
3.8 Consumer Insights Infographic
4. D2C Health/Wellness Brand Strategies
4.1 Health/wellness recategorizations: take a vice and make it healthy
4.1.1 Pricing implications of vice-virtue recategorizations in D2C
4.1.2 Pricing implications of abundant information and misinformation
4.1.3 Premium pricing and legitimate scarcity
4.1.4 Leveraging nostalgia and ideas about what’s “modern”
4.1.5 Shedding negative associations
4.1.6 Inverting, changing, or clarifying the value proposition
4.1.7 Testing the new product/market fit
4.2 Market segmentation in D2C
4.2.1 Innovative products, curious consumers
4.2.2 Suspension of retail-based consumer insights
4.3 Operational challenges and adaptations
4.3.1 Shift in operational mindset
4.3.2 D2C order fulfillment
4.3.3 Breaking the rules of retail
4.4 Strategic takeaways
5. Direct Selling Parallels
5.1 The Permanent End of Door-to-Door Sales
5.2 Social/Policy-Related Underpinnings of Direct Selling in Health/Wellness Categories
5.2.1 On the consumption side
5.2.2 On the selling side
5.2.3 Geography as a hidden driver
5.3 Inventory Loading and Fundamental Problems in MLMs
5.4 The Digital Future
6. Supply Chain Developments and Digital Storytelling
6.1 Restructuring on the commodity level
6.2 Traceability innovations
6.3 Supply chain ethics and conspicuous consumption

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