Data Day: Clean Living 2017 –…

Data Day: Clean Living 2017 – UK Market

Eat, move and wear: attitudes and behaviors of the health-conscious consumer.

Have you noticed the recent transformation occuring in your area?

First, your local pub started offering gluten-free and vegan meals. Next, a fairtrade gift shop popped up down the road. Now within a single postcode there are multiple gyms, a boutique studio and an outdoor club offers something called “yoga-lates”. Even the way people dress has changed.

Workout clothes are worn for more than “working out”, and Fitbits have replaced regular watches. This transformation encompasses more than a few health-crazed, diet-driven or “green” consumers. The changes you see are part of a lifestyle movement. The “clean living” trend has grown consistently in recent years, and has entered mainstream British culture.

A Growing Lifestyle Change

“Clean Living” has many meanings. To some, it is a conscious effort to eat healthily and exercise. To others, it’s driven by an ethical approach to how we consume and what we wear.

However people define it, Clean Living is a multi-million-pound industry. Organic food sales in the UK grew by 4.9% to reach almost £2 billion pounds in 2015, according to the Soil Association. The fitness and health club industry has more members than ever, with a record 9.2 million in 2015. Sporting goods are also set to grow by 6% to reach £7 billion in 2016, according to Mintel.

UK Clean Living: Eat Move Wear
*Audiences based on search behaviour across a 12-week period from 11-Sep to 3-Dec, compared to the equivalent 12-week period in 2015.

In this report, we use Hitwise data to analyse the most significant trend in recent years, and review how retailers and companies have evolved with this lifestyle change.

1. Eat

Online searches for “nutrition” have risen by a significant 20% from 2014 to 2016. As our interest in food grows, how has our behaviour changed? In this section, we highlight foods and diets that are becoming increasingly mainstream, and explore how food retailers and supermarkets are adapting to the trend of clean eating.

“Fads” vs. “Trends”

The diet world has always undergone many short-lived fads (Atkins, anyone?).

Despite their peak in January after the silly season, “detox” related searches have declined overall, with a 9% drop from 2015 to 2016. The “paleo” diet also saw its hey-day at the start of 2015, but never returned to that level since. From 2015 to 2016, searches for “paleo” declined by 22%.

UK Clean Living: Diet Searches

Instead, we have seen a steady rise in people searching for whole and real food diets. The top diets growing consistently each year include: vegan, gluten free and dairy free.

Compared to fads and crash diets, these steadily growing food trends reflect people’s desire for long-term change in their consumption habits.


The term “superfood” has created a lot of buzz over the past few years. Just look at Jamie Oliver’s television programmes.

The growing popularity of superfoods points to consumers’ growing concern around the nutritional value of their food, whether it’s more anti-oxidants or Omega 3’s. This is exemplified by the increases in superfood searches over the past three years, such as a 68% rise in chia seeds.

UK Clean Living: Superfoods

Pret a Manger used 5 million avocados in 2015, a trend we also see more broadly amongst UK consumers. Searches for avocados have increased by 103% since 2014.

Healthy Home Cooking Made Easy

Healthy cooking has become more accessible with the rise of subscription food boxes and the inspiration driven by social media influencers such as, Madeleine Shaw.

YouTube also acts as a source of cooking inspiration, with searches on “healthy” “vegan” and “vegetarian recipes” growing by 31% in the last 6 months**.

How Are Supermarkets Capitalizing on Healthy Eating?

With searches for nutritious diets rising, supermarkets are competing to attract the growing group of health-conscious consumers.

Supermarkets have approached this goal in various ways – from releasing exclusive product ranges (such as Healthy Living by Tesco and Be Good to Yourself by Sainsbury’s), to providing healthy recipes, diet advice and meal plans (such as Waitrose’s Healthy Eating and Love Life range).

Top supermarkets have reaped the benefits of these efforts, with clicks from healthy food searches increasing greatly year-on-year. In particular, Tesco has been well-placed to attract this growing consumer segment, experiencing over 200% growth in the volume of health food search clicks from 2015 to 2016. As the first UK retailer to launch a “free from” range (in 2003), Tesco currently sells over 200 million “free from” products annually.

UK Clean Living: Top Supermarkets
Downstream websites from a portfolio of health-food related search terms (e.g. vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, organic food).

2. Move

The fitness industry has undergone a makeover – and it worked. Searches for “gyms” and “exercise” have increased by over 30% in the past three years. This is driven by two key factors: the number of people wanting to get in shape, and consumer views towards fitness itself – seeing it less as a “chore” and more as a “way of life”. In this section, we look at how exercises like yoga and CrossFit are changing the way consumers view and practice fitness.

More Interest, More Options

Nowadays, exercise options are endless – we can join boutique gyms, team sports or set a marathon goal with a single click. Gyms are in constant evolution to make exercise more interesting, with everything from “piloxing” (a fusion of pilates-boxing) to “HIIT” bootcamps (high intensity interval training).

A key example of this is the continued rise of yoga. This ancient art form has seen searches increase by 25% from 2014 through to 2016.

UK Clean Living: Yoga Searches
The above audiences are based on search behaviour across a 12-week period from 11-Sep to 3-Dec, compared to the equivalent 12-week period in 2015.

Yoga and its many disciplines continues to attract a broad following, with a diverse offering of mind, body and soul practices.

Searches among males have grown by 97%, now attracting an even split between females (51%) and males (49%). Ages have diversified, with the largest growth exhibited among those older. Currently, 21% of “yoga” searches come from 18-24 age group, through to 22% from 55+ age group.

Exercise Challenges Go Mainstream

Challenge sports are no longer for the fitness elite. Although the goal to “push yourself to the limit” is common across challenges, the different sports draw different audiences.

UK Clean Living: Exercise Challenges
How Brands Have Capitalized on the Fitness Movement

Several retailers have been highly successful in aligning their brand with growing fitness movements.

Reebok’s popularity was revitalised after teaming up with CrossFit in 2011. Riding off the success of Tough Mudders, Virgin Active became its official health club and partner offering specialised Mudder training classes. Retail brands have also developed tailored products for sporting challenges, such as Timex’s full collection of Ironman watches (which recently celebrated their 30-year anniversary).

3. Wear

In this section, we spotlight brands that have propelled the concept of a “fashionably fit lifestyle” into the mainstream. These brands create products and wearables that help people integrate fitness into their everyday life.

Online visits to the sports clothing industry have grown by an incredible 22% from 2014 to 2016. Sporting products were also among the largest growing industries in 2016’s Black Friday sales. This rise is, in part, powered by long-standing sports retailer brands, such as Nike and Adidas.

But another key driver to the industry’s rise comes from the growing popularity of activewear (or athleisure), and fitness wearables. The audiences for people searching for these two industries have grown substantially over the past year:

UK Clean Living: Activewear and Fitness Trackers
Based on search behaviour across a 12-week period from 11-Sep to 3-Dec, compared to equivalent 12-week period in 2015

In only a handful of years, yoga pants have become a fashion statement, and Fitbits have evolved into the most popular Christmas present several years running.


“Atheleisure” has dominated the growth of sports retail. Brands such as Nike and JD Sports have expanded their activewear ranges, and almost all high street retailers have introduced exclusive lines – from H&M and Topshop, to Tesco. Specialist brands, such as Lululemon and Fabletics, find success by focusing on the “fashionably fit” consumer.

Sweaty Betty: A Marriage Between Fashion and Fitness

1. About the brand
Founded in London in 1998, Sweaty Betty was one of the first brands to seize the activewear market. The brand now has over 50 stores from London to Los Angeles, which offers everything from fashionable studio, running, swimming to ski attire.

2. The key to Sweaty Betty’s success
Sweaty Betty has evolved from pure retail into a lifestyle brand, using digital channels, such as social media, to drive this change. Clicks from social media to Sweaty Betty’s website were 24% greater than the sports retail industry average, over the past year.

3. Sweaty Betty’s audience
“Yummy Mummies” and female business professionals constitute the largest portion of Sweaty Betty’s audience. The brand is also in a good position for the future, attracting a large following among young Millennials looking for fashion outside of the gym.

Wearable Technology

From a term that was almost non-existent a decade ago, “fitness trackers” have become a household product. From specialist brands like Garmin and Misfit to smartwatches by Apple and Samsung, there are options for every consumer. Even high-end labels, like Michael Kors and Tory Burch, have released their version of “smart jewellery”.

Fitbit: Revolutionizing Trackable Health and Fitness

1. About the brand
Founded in 2007, Fitbit revolutionised the wearable industry. Over the years, it evolved from a step and calorie counter to a multi-feature device with guided breathing, fitness plans and sleep quality monitoring.

2. The key to Fitbit’s success
Fitbit has been able to sustain its appeal year on year, despite growing competition. Searches for “fitbit” or “fit bit” have increased by 193% from 2014-2015 and 90% from 2015-2016, thanks to its strong brand name and user community.

3. The Fitbit audience
Fitbits attracts a diverse set of customers – from all ages (with only 55+ age group under-indexed compared to the general online population) and a variety of UK regions (with only London under-indexed compared to other regions).

Key Takeaways

This movement offers incredible opportunities for brands willing to understand the needs of the Clean Living consumer. Here are some tips based on our findings:

1. Market to trends over fads
Consumers are less interested in crash diets and detoxes. They crave real, lasting solutions for bettering their lives. Brands should focus on identifying short-lived fads vs. consistent trends, and align themselves with stable trends for long-term success.

2. Feed consumer desire for clarity and information
Modern consumers care more deeply than ever about “real” food, effective workouts and making authentic choices that are better for them and the planet. Support their discovery and growth by providing helpful and trustworthy information.

3. Tap into the movement with smart partnerships
Meet consumers where they are. Social media and influencer engagement can help you connect with passionate health-driven communities. Consider partnering with brands who are already reaching this audience, in a way that will be beneficial to everyone.

Clean Living is a multi-million-pound industry. Some brands have capitalised on this growing fitness movement, while others are struggling to catch up. The key lies in the ability to identify target audiences and understand what makes them tick. These insights can help shape sales and marketing initiatives, in order to capture and retain this growing segment.

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