Survey: Women Prefer Sex to Chocolate -- but Not Money

Respondents Would Rather Take $1,000 Over Both to Spend on Beauty Products in 'Me-covery'

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BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- Given a choice between great sex every week for five years and free chocolate every week for five years, U.S. women pick sex by a 73% to 27% margin. But by a considerably higher margin women choose a lump sum of $1,000 in cash over the weekly chocolate -- 91% to 9% -- according to a new tracking survey by Saatchi Wellness and Time Inc.

This may provide clues for Valentine's Day gift selection, but it also signals a turn for the beauty industry, because part of what women would like to spend that extra $1,000 on is, apparently, beauty products, after two years of the beauty industry struggling at all levels.

Saatchi believes its annual tracking survey of 1,000 U.S. women heralds a "Me-Covery" in which women are finally tired of scrimping on things that affect their looks.

The survey found 36% of women are putting a greater priority on their appearance, vs. only 15% who are downgrading appearance as a priority. And 40% of women now say they're taking better care of their skin, up from only 16% who said that in a similar survey in 2009.

Similarly, the percent of women who said they're buying more anti-aging products more than quadrupled to 22% in 2010 from 5% in 2009. Salons stand to fare better, too. In 2009, 31% of women said they'd switched from having their hair colored at salons to having it colored at home. In 2010, only 13% of women said that.

Those attitudes are reflected in real-world spending patterns, too, as NPD Group last week reported the prestige beauty business grew 4% last year, ending two years of decline. And several mass categories that had been flat or declining in recent years, including shampoos and conditioners, began showing growth again last year, according to SymphonyIRI data from Deutsche Bank.

Increasingly, women also equate nutrition with beauty and wellness, said Ned Russell, managing director of Saatchi Wellness, and 2010 was a year for starting healthy eating habits, he said, with 60% of women saying they're eating more fruits and vegetables, 50% saying they're eating fewer fatty foods and 39% eating fewer sweets -- hence part of that low score for chocolate vs. sex and money.

"It's like woman are saying, 'Damn it, I want to be happy again,'" Mr. Russell said. "Times may be uncertain, but I'm going to move on and enjoy myself. They're saying 'I'm over it.'"

Mr. Russell said the shift toward equating health with beauty is dramatic from year to year and surprising, too, with women increasingly equating oral care with beauty.

Saatchi Wellness sibling Saatchi & Saatchi works on Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest, which made a beauty-focused play last year with the launch of its 3-D White line. But while that was an apparent success, Mr. Russell said he believes the shift in thinking also signals that another P&G brand handled by Saatchi -- Olay -- should also consider a move into oral care.

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