Healthy Lifestyle: Online’s Greatest Hits


The increasing integration of healthy and fit choices into daily lives has resulted in a multi-billion dollar industry. According to the USDA, the market for organic products exceeds $39 billion in the US. Fitness clubs have surpassed $30 billion in revenue according to IBISWorld. Thanks largely to the popularity of active-wear, Morgan Stanley reports that sports apparel sales have increased 42% in the past seven years, up to $270 billion.

“To document how this healthy lifestyle is trending online, Hitwise looked at how searches have increased in this area; and at the demographics of the searchers” says Rochelle Bailis, Global Director of Content & Insights at Hitwise (pictured above).

Below, the findings on this important part of online commerce.



Online searches for nutrition, diet and super-food terms have risen by 70% from 2014 to 2016. The food industry is notorious for “here today, gone tomorrow” diet fads (Atkins, anyone?). However, search data also reveals several consistent food trends that are gaining continuous traction. For example, since 2014, searches for “gluten free” have risen steadily by 141%, and show no sign of slowing. Meanwhile, searches for the “paleo” diet hit a sudden peak in January of 2016, with variations like “what is paleo” ‘“paleo recipes” and “paleo snacks” – but this sudden interest steadily lost steam (as do many New Year’s resolutions) over the course of the year. Steady food trends reflect consumer’s desire for long-term change in their eating habits, whereas sudden spike may indicate a more short-lived diet fad.

The growing popularity of “superfoods” points to consumers’ increasing concern around the nutritional value of their food, whether it’s antioxidants or Omega 3’s. This is exemplified by the increases in super-food searches over the past three years, such as chia seeds and acai berries.


Consumers today are less likely to see working out as a “chore” and more as a “way of life.” Searches for gyms and fitness terms have increased by 66% in the past three years. Fitness challenges like the Tough Mudder and Ironman have skyrocketed in popularity and are no longer for the fitness elite. Although the goal to “push yourself to the limit” is a common thread, each of the following competitions draws a different audience:

The sudden increase in participation and fierce displays of athleticism in fitness challenges drew the attention of media moguls like ESPN for live streaming. Meanwhile, sponsorships crop up every day, between Crossfit and Reebok, Ironman and GoPro, Tough Mudder and Old Spice and Red Bull’s series of extreme sports competitions. This suggests that there is room for creative sponsorship beyond traditional sports leagues, for brands prepared to take risks and jump on the bandwagon early.

Searches for activewear and fitness wearables have increased by an incredible 209% in the past three years. Online visits to the sports apparel industry has grown by 22% from 2014 to 2016. This rise is, in part, powered by popular and established sports apparel brands, such as Nike and Adidas. But another key driver to this meteoric rise comes from the growing popularity of active-wear (or athleisure) brands, and fitness wearables. The number of people searching for these two types of product categories has shot up even more dramatically over the past year**: In only a handful of years, yoga pants have become a fashion statement, and Fitbits have evolved into the most popular holiday gift several years running. Let’s take a look at the consumers buying into these trends.

* Based on annual visits to Hitwise Sports & Apparel industry websites
measured year over year from 2014 through 2016.

** Based on weekly search variations of active-wear brands and fitness trackers,
measured year over year for 2015 and 2016.



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