Podcast: Driving Purchasing Behaviors With Health-Conscious Shoppers

Stephen Honovich, Director of Client Development at Behaviorally, joins us to discuss holiday eating habits, diet culture, driving purchasing behaviors in health-minded shoppers, and communicating natural propositions on pack inspired by his own health and fitness journey including becoming a NASM certified personal trainer.

The Our Best Behavior Podcast is hosted by Matt Salem (Senior Vice President, Client Development).

Read more on the Behaviorally Blog (behaviorally.com/blog/).

Matt Salem

 Hi everyone. I’m your host, Matt Salem, and you have tuned into another episode of our best behavior. A podcast brought to you by Behaviorally winner of the 2020 market research podcast. Award relief. Formerly PRS helps brands improve shopper and consumer experiences by defining and diagnosing the behaviors that drive shop.

Each month we produce a podcast to share industry insights on trending topics designed to help you make better shopper marketing decisions. Today we are joined by Steve Honovich, client development at Behaviorally. Steve, pleasure to have you on the show.


Stephen Honovich

 Thanks for having me on Matt. I’m really excited for this for a while.


Matt Salem

 I know you have. I mean, it’s not a fantasy football podcast. Just remember that we do talk some fantasy football went in the office, but maybe we’ll get that. We’ll go in another time.


Stephen Honovich

 Yeah. Yeah. Brutal, brutal bangles loss yesterday, but, uh, yeah, I’ve, uh, I’m a natural ham. So, I’ve been, uh, I’m always excited to get my face and voice out there.


Matt Salem

 All right. Cool, cool. Well, a little bit different topic here and really taking us into the year-end and thinking about frankly, all the food that I’ve been eating recently, and I’m sure the rest of you listening have, so, you know, Thanksgiving, you’re at the table feeling quite gluttonous. Probably last night, I made a huge Hanukkah dinner for me and my children.

They decided they didn’t like it. And made sliced bread and butter, which was a bit disappointing, but these things happen. You know, rolling right into the holiday parties and such that are coming. There’s just so much happening at the end of the year. And you indulge, and you start thinking a bit about your nutrition and your wellbeing, and that’s where we want to focus today.

And you know, I’d like to hear from you. Are you feeling these same pressures that I am at the end of the year? You want to be part of all these parties and such, but you know, you’re not necessarily doing the best for yourself on the inside?

Stephen Honovich

Yeah, man.

Matt Salem

Uh, I think rolling into the holidays is a good way to put it because I think I celebrated Thanksgiving four times last week, and I’m definitely getting a more, a little bit more round and, uh, uh, yeah, so, health and nutrition has been saying.

It’s been important to me for a long time. Now I grew up maybe without the best eating habits and didn’t know a lot about nutrition, and then in my early twenties, it became a real interest in passion of mine. And, uh, now I’m in my thirties and trying to readjust to what my body is doing to me and how it’s processing the stuff I’m putting in my mouth.

But, uh, yeah, definitely, always top of. Well, there’s a lot that we can do for ourselves to help protect our health. Right? So, there’s making sure that we get some exercise. There’s making sure we get the proper rest and sleep and being in a good mental state, which certainly can impact your physical state.

There’s also what we put in our mouth, then how we look at the nutrition values in what we eat. So, in thinking about that, and then thinking about Behaviorally and what we do for a living here. Looking at how people shop categories, looking how packaging impacts the shopping behaviors and the experiences.

When we think of looking for nutritional products or things that are good for you, what does that look like? And did it used to look different, and has it changed over time? That’s where I’d like to go today? Well,


Stephen Honovich

Yeah, I mean, one thing that definitely hasn’t changed for as long as I can remember is, uh, you know, humans in the US in particular, I think, really.

Diet culture. Like there’s, there’s been, there’s been the fad diet. There’s I can think back to Atkins. I can think back to low fat, low carb, no sugar. Um, there there’s been a litany of diets that have gone through kind of their cyclical nature throughout the course of my lifetime. And I think some people kind of get stuck in a diet or stuck in a way of thinking.

I know, you know, if I go over to my parents’ house, they’re still on the low calorie. That and then I look at the ice cream they buy, it’s got all this low on it, and I’m looking at the ingredients, and I’d almost rather have them eating fully fatted, fully sugared ice cream that’s made with real stuff. Um, so, I, I think what’s, what’s been really interesting recently, um, with all the information that’s out there and kind of people really refocusing in on their health and not having the ability to do so.

And, and just having a wide range of products to meet everybody’s different, uh, different needs, um, the, the idea of, of a whole foods or whole 30 diet or eating things that are. Uh, almost coming straight from nature, very on processed, very on top without all of those different chemicals and additives and preservatives and sugars, and the list goes on and on.

Uh, but I think that that’s a really interesting approach, and I think it’s a good one. It’s it makes intuitive sense. It’s uh, the only thing is it might be a little bit difficult to do in the, in the consumer landscape right now, just because there’s so, much coming at you at all times.


Matt Salem

And when I think about the consumer landscape and packaging for food in particular and beverage.

How manufacturers try to connote that it’s healthy in the past. There was a lot of, you know, exactly what you’re saying, low fat, low calorie. They’re kind of screaming these things at you, right? Not necessarily screaming at you. Natural and natural. Ingres. Have you seen a decided shift there in terms of how these manufacturers are communicating to consumers? Are some still resting on those laurels of a low-fat diet to carry the weight, or is that changing in the landscape?


Stephen Honovich

Well, I think it is changing, and I think a lot of it is changing just in the variety of products that are coming out. And the way that natural and healthy is penetrating, you know, categories that are normally thought of as being as kind of unhealthy. It’s something I’ve been seeing a lot in energy drinks recently.

You know, when, when that kind of first became a craze. Sure. It might give you a little bit of a boost, but it’s also, what else is it doing to you? You know, there, there’s all sorts of literature out there that you can read about the different side effects of different energy drinks. And I’ve seen, uh, I’ve actually tested a bunch of different brands recently, um, that are coming out as kind of a healthier alternative to energy drinks with the same energy benefit, but none of the quote-unquote bad stuff for you.

So, I, I think it’s something that, uh, manufacturers are slowly realizing and adapting to.


Matt Salem

 Yeah. That makes sense. I see that too. Just more transparency in terms of what’s in the product. What makes it good for you? Um, trying to remove the things that are, frankly, are questionable that literally, people might not even be able to pronounce, which doesn’t really speak to health and natural in thinking of those types of examples.

And more specifically, what companies are doing on pack in order to communicate natural. What are some of the themes that you’ve seen anecdotally across all the work that you’ve done in the research that you’ve conducted in terms of what makes a natural food to the shopper? Vis-a-vis the packaging? How was that packaging working to say, Ooh, you know what?

I’m going to try this one. This looks good to me. This looks natural.


Stephen Honovich

 Well yeah, I think there’s a lot of different tips and tricks that you can employ when you’re trying to do that. And that’s something that Behaviorally can really help out with. We have that, you know, that benefits and barriers, behavioral science framework, and you’re just trying to communicate what’s good about your product and remove all the confusion. And I think we’ve tested a lot of cool stuff recently. That’s doing just that. I think color is a big one. And maybe you can expound on that being the Behaviorally veteran that you are, but just being here just under eight, seven months, I’ve seen a lot of, you know, green connotes health.

And that makes a lot of sense, mother nature, the earth. You gotta be careful to not go too kind of crazy with the green because you can get this unnatural use that might do the exact opposite of what you want. A white, also a very nice, simple color that can connote health. So, that. That’s something that you can play around with as well.

Uh, but color is always going to be a big one. Have you seen that? Uh,


Matt Salem

 I have actually, and I love the point that you brought up in terms of how the color is executed. So, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’ve seen green keynote net. We know that it can lead to other category codes like recycling or sustainability.

And in part, I think the hues that you use and how you execute your green is going to impact how it’s received by consumers. I mean, particularly if you start looking like a Slimer from Ghostbusters, I don’t know if that’s going to come across as natural.


Stephen Honovich

 I’m an eighties, nineties kid. So, I originally thought of a teenage mutant ninja turtle secret of use.

You don’t want to be getting that out there. Right.


Matt Salem

 Right. Exactly. Um, and then even with white, too, certainly have seen that over the years, time and again, where it’s a delicate balancing act because, on the one hand, it could help. And the topic that we’re talking about, but on the other hand, it could start to be generic store brand.

Do I really want this brand, or should I be looking elsewhere for something that’s more national or maybe a heavy hitter? So, yeah. Couldn’t agree


Stephen Honovich

 With you more and also white, white. Peel back a flavor as well. So, it’s all kind of the piece of the puzzle. You want to go get the white in there to convey the natural, but the product still has to taste good. Right? Cause you want the


Matt Salem

 Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that’s, that’s something else I’d like to hear about actually, because where is that balancing act? Right. If you want to communicate natural and you want to communicate, perhaps a couple of copy points, even, maybe it is low-fat, but something that tells a shopper, this is good for you, or this isn’t bad for you.

Where are those fine lines because you also want to taste good? Right? I mean, you also want to have those category costs of entry. I don’t want to eat something that’s healthy for me, but it tastes like crap, right?


Stephen Honovich

 Yeah. Yeah. I think I think something that’s interesting is like highlighting the different ingredients that you’re using and using that to kind of connote different tastes and flavors.

And that’s also a tight rope that you have to walk to because if you use a new ingredient or an ingredient that people aren’t too familiar with. You can introduce some confusion, and that becomes a barrier at the, at the shelf, or at the decision point. So, I tested something that they were they were really hyped up about a new energy source, and they were using a new kind of a Berry, and they put the Berry on pack.

They were touting it as the key ingredient, and yeah, it made sense for the category. It made sense for the product, but also it kind of keynoted some other things as well. And we found that it was introducing some confusion to the consumer, and we actually recommended moving it to the back of the pack where they could spend a little more time, have a little more real estate to put some copy on there. Get people familiar with the new ingredients. So, you want to choose your star ingredients carefully, as I like to put it.


Matt Salem

That makes sense. And also, the way they’re depicted is what I’m hearing because the visualization itself didn’t seem to be intuitive. And if it needed more support, it’s hard to use the real estate on the front of pack to get all of that across to the shopper.

Right. It’s kind of gotta be those quick kits that make sense for shoppers. So, that’s an interesting example. If I’m walking down the aisle in Whole Foods or any other, you know, a local store that’s a bit more health-focused. What else can I expect to see from packaging? That’s trying to communicate a natural proposition.


Stephen Honovich

Well, I think you just touched on another one. That’s really interesting. Um, with all the information that’s out there that we touched on, people are hungry for knowledge, hungry to kind of experiment with their diet and experiment with their health. And, uh, if you’re using. Something like a fruit, for example, you kind of have to be able to be careful about how you portray that fruit Cause if you’re touting health if you’re you’re touting natural, and you’re slapping either a perfect computer-generated, Sci-Fi-looking fruit on your pack, or you’re, you’re putting a smiley face on it that might cue something else. It might come across as childish cartoony. And it might. If it comes across as too unnatural, you might be sending the exact opposite message of, uh, of what you’re trying to get across.


Matt Salem

Sure. That makes sense to me. So, in the holiday season, And then thinking about how this may impact you personally. Will you be eating more natural for the holiday season? Or are you just going to wait till January? Like the rest of us, that’s going to happen?


Stephen Honovich

I might have to plead the fifth on that one. Um, yeah. I, I mean, like I said, I’m kind of still adapting to my new thirties’ metabolism, even though I’m kind of halfway through. So, I’m a little bit behind the eight ball on, on catching up to that one. Uh, it’s something that’s always on my mind. Yeah. Um, and I think it’s one of the most important things that you can do.

People think about health and exercise, and they want to. And crush it in the gym, and that’s great. But, um, you could see people that are in the gym every day, and they’re killing it. They’re putting up way. They’re, they’re running, they’re getting their cardio in, and their body’s not changing and likely more times often than not.

It’s because they’re not paying attention to their diet. And you know, they say abs are made in the kitchen. Right?


Matt Salem

 Oh, I like that. I haven’t heard that one. I liked that one. Yeah, I agree. It doesn’t say it. You say it. It’s all about balance, though. I agree. You have to find your way. You can’t just be focused in one area.

You have to be focused across the board. So, that’s, that’s true in a lot of things in life, I would say. So, as we wrap up today, I want to hear about what your favorite natural food is to eat weekly. What do you pick up consistently? What’s your go-to? I mean, for me, I would say. It’s gotta be fruits and salad.

I mean, I am constantly incorporating fruits and salads into my meal repertoire daily. I mean, that’s as natural as it gets.


Stephen Honovich

I feel like, yeah. I think I’ve personally seen you eat a salad every single day since joining the company. So, go, he definitely practices what he preaches, folks. Um, you know, As someone who’s interested in diet and nutrition, I think you could find literature out there that will tell you that something is good or bad.

Um, you know, there’s almost, I can’t think of a single food that I haven’t been told. This is all you should eat, or you should never eat it. And they’re talking about the same food. Uh, one of the few things that you never really hear anything bad about is. There are tasty. They’re sweet, but not too sweet.

You know, they say, eat the rainbow. So, you get some blues and reds and purples in there. Uh, I love him; whether it be in a smoothie or on top of some oatmeal, I get the antioxidants in there as well. So, I would say berries are definitely one of my big go-to


Matt Salem

 Nice. I liked that. I’ve been pushing that with my children a lot lately, actually blueberries or grapes even, but blueberries in particular, in their, uh, in their snack repertoire for school, aside from the pop tarts and the candy that they like to eat.

So. Well, I, I really appreciate you coming on here today. It was interesting to hear some of the tactics that our clients and just broadly we see being used in categories when it comes to communicating natural on pack; I really would like to thank you as a guest. Um, I hope to have you again, maybe it’ll be another topic like fantasy football.

Maybe it’ll be more likely to. Research related, but thanks to Steve for coming on the show today. And once again to our audience, thanks for tuning into our best behavior brought to you by Behaviorally. We’ll catch you next time.

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