Entering a Green Era – its called LOHAS

Eco-savvy consumers are pushing retailers to cut waste, reduce energy usage and evaluate product packaging. They are more motivated than ever to implement environmentally sound practices but the real green winners in business are already outperforming their competitors by giving equal weight to the brand-building potential of an eco-friendly strategy.

New research shows how fast the idea of “green” is being adopted in Asia. More than just a sustainability trend, it’s a multi-billion dollar market and companies are starting to get serious about it. When “talking green” with your customers, understanding their consumer and their business needs is imperative.

These eco-savvy consumers of today are called LOHASians. LOHAS stands for Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability and represents a social movement that has conscious consumption at the centre of its values. LOHASians place equal value on personal and planetary health.

Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) and LOHAS Asia’s first in-depth survey on LOHAS consumers in Asia-Pacific has produced surprising and encouraging results. Surprising, as demand for products that do not harm the environment is high, especially among the biggest consumer markets of China, India an Indonesia. Encouraging, because this will push companies to invest in new manufacturing processes and introduce environmentally-friendly products,and this can have a real impact on the environment, quickly.

The biggest reason for not buying green products in Asia is lack of availability, not demand. If you then factor in the willingness to pay a price premium, we see a market that is primed for rapid expansion. While demand for green food and drink is there, the things that influences consumers purchasing decisions are fairly basic. For example, being nutritious and natural are far more important than a low glycaemic index or fair trade, while evidence that the product is not harmful to the environment must be articulated.

LOHAS began life in the USA in 2000 as a market-research acronym to describe a new environmentally-aware consumer whose purchases predict mass-market trends (lifestyles of health and sustainability). At that time the market was estimated to be US$ 228 billion.

Since then the market has evolved, recalibrated and new market size was released in 2006 estimated at US $209 billion. This market size reduction is not due to a shrinking of the LOHAS market but rather a more specific classification of products and services catering to consumers and not business-to-business transactions. The initial study included business-to-business sales thus providing a larger market number.

It has since become a business movement in the USA, but has morphed in Asia to become a trend, a brand used to describe all manner of environmental products and services. First taking off in Japan, then China and Taiwan and now spreading rapidly through the Asia-Pacific region.

What the new studies reveal

In January 2010 LOHAS Asia partnered with The Natural Marketing Institute in pioneering LOHAS Consumer Research in Asia-Pacific, conducting an online survey across 10 countries. More than 18,000 consumers were surveyed, to provide in-depth research on the LOHAS consumer and marketplace across the following countries: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

These surveys reveal that when marketing environmentally-friendly products and services, four consumer segments can be identified as targets for companies.

1) LOHAS: strong views regarding personal and planetary health, which are widely reflected in their behaviour. They are heavy users of green products and exude a strong influence over the other segments.

2) Naturalites: interest in protecting the environment is mainly a byproduct of their drive to be healthy and is reflected in their consumption of natural and organic products, as well as gym memberships etc.

3) Drifters: have a shifting commitment to most issues, including sustainability. As the youngest segment, drifters are steered by the latest trends and more likely to view price as a roadblock to green living.

4) Conventionals: not particularly environmentally-conscious in attitude, they are practical consumers whose energy-conservation and recycling efforts can make them a viable target for some marketers.

Value in the LOHAS brand

Companies gaining the leading edge recognize that customers expect them to act more so than do their under-performing competitors, are more interested in lowering their carbon footprint, and are much more in tune with creating the image that they care.

They associate environmentally sound practices with their brand image to consumers and the industry, and associate these practices with their ethical responsibility to the community in anticipation of stealing market share as the customer’s green demands grow. Some examples from the region are listed below

– Coca-Cola’s latest bottled water launch is called I LOHAS due to the use of cornstarch bottles that compact to a very small size by twisting when disposed.
– One of the latest launches in business hotels is the Super Hotel LOHAS Nara in Kansai at the JR train station, more are planned.

– My LOHAS magazine has been in publication for almost six years.
– Kaoshung County publicises itself as LOHAS! in their tourism brochures.

– One of the biggest magazine launches in Shanghai in 2008 was LOHAS (lehuo) magazine using actress Zhang Ziyi on the cover.

Hong Kong
– An MTR station, opened July 2009, is called LOHAS Park, after the development above the station that promotes healthy living.

– The marketing campaign to Taipei in late 2008 from the Singapore Tourist Board was ‘Uniquely LOHAS Singapore’.

– One of Sunway City’s latest developments (Rymba Hills) is promoted as a LOHAS development due to its natural surroundings.

The LOHAS study utilised a leading online research firm and was designed, managed and analysed by NMI and LOHAS Asia. For more information about the above mentioned reports or for custom analysis of the LOHAS consumer in Asia please contact Adam Horler, the president of LOHAS Asia at adam@lohas-asia.org or visit www.lohas-asia.org

This is a press release from Asia-Pacific LOHAS.

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