Over the last 50 years, the U.S. natural, organic and healthy products market has prospered into a $108 billion industry, helping millions of people lead higher-quality, healthier lives. Yet, outside of this thriving industry, live hundreds of millions of other Americans who do not interact with natural, organic and healthy products brands—either because they don’t have access to them, don’t believe in them or cannot afford them.

It is this majority of the United States that was the focus of New Hope Natural Media’s first Future of Wellness ethnographic research study. As part of this research, New Hope held in-home conversations with 25 families about what health and wellness means to them. These families kept food diaries, cut out product labels, and wrote about their shopping behaviors, diets, concerns and issues around health and wellness. In addition, New Hope and a documentary filmmaker spent a full day with six selected families. The company’s researchers ate breakfast, snack and dinner with these families, shopped with them, and talked about the products in their cupboards and refrigerators. 

NewHope360 spoke with project's lead researchers—Dave Kingsbury, New Hope’s vice president of new product development and research; and Nancy Coulter-Parker, director of content, education and research—about the study and the insights it can bring to the natural, organic and healthy products industry.

Kingsbury and Coulter-Parker will present the top line findings and video clips from this research from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, at Natural Products Expo West 2011.

NewHope360: What is ethnographic research, and why is it important?

Dave Kingsbury: Ethnographic research has its roots in anthropology. Margaret Mead had a great quote about this type of research. She said: “To really understand a culture, you should laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry.” To do that, you have to immerse yourself in their culture.

When we talk about this kind of research, people often think, “Oh, you’re going to spend nine weeks in a mud hut with an African tribe that doesn’t speak English.” We didn’t do that here; we just went into American homes.