How “Healthy” are Supermarket Nutritional Programs?

The discussion of health and nutrition continues to be prevalent in our society and certainly in the food industry.  Whether it be the controversy of Mayor Bloomberg of New York banning large sodas, or the discussion of the epidemic of obesity in the U.S., there is a growing acknowledgement that America has a nutritional problem.

The food industry has reacted, but in the case of supermarket nutritional programs, I truly wonder if they are achieving the goals of the retailers that have invested in them.   Further, I question whether the consumer finds them helpful or practical.Fooducate-Android-v0p9-on-Nexus-product-small

Certainly progress is evident.  Vestom’s “Healthy Aisles”, Hannaford’s Guiding Stars, and NuVal have a foot print in thousands of supermarket.  Larger chains like Safeway and Kroger are testing their own proprietary programs, each with some semblance of similarity to the next.  These programs typically include shelf tags with ratings, health state categorizations and in some cases some actual nutritional information.  But there is only so much space on a shelf tag, or even adjacent sign to convey all the benefits and nutritional information that is available to communicate.

To fill that void, new mobile apps have also emerged.  Apps like “Fooducate”, “Serve it Up”, “Food Fight”  and my personal favorite , the “Beer Nutrition Calculator” are among the dozens and dozens of tools shoppers can access on-line and on their smartphone as they stroll down the aisles of the grocer.

In addition, consumers are telling us consistently in shopper research that nutrition is important to them and having such information is said to be a true benefit.  But while shoppers with various medical needs and dietary requirements are using these programs to varying degrees, it is at best unclear if these programs are making any significant impact on the diets of Americans.

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For sure, some supermarket retailers that are doing an outstanding job with providing both nutritional information, health screenings at the in-store pharmacy, and have even placed dietitians and nutritionists on staff.  Others are doing far less, while some seem oblivious to the whole concept.  But even among the best nutritional practitioners, there remain opportunities to “nurture” these programs so that more consumers engage.

 

 

 

In addition to subscribing to a nutritional shelf tag program, the following are just a few ideas to ponder;

  • Use syndicated demographics or proprietary customer data to understand the basic needs and nutritional priorities of your shoppers, by market and by store thus making intelligent decisions about what type of items and issues prevail on a local level.
  • Put the in-store pharmacy and pharmacists in play conducting health screenings, providing food/drug interaction information, and dietary recommendations for various health states.
  • Perhaps the biggest opportunity lies in directing deals and promotions towards healthy items.  To that end promote nutrition with themed promotions and campaigns focused on low sodium, hearth healthy, and gluten free items.  Involve brand partners and include sampling and on-site nutritionists.  “Healthy Savings”, etc.
  • Develop nutritional programs involving kids and brands that have nutritional value for young consumers.
  • Highlight healthy items in each key category and develop a reputation of having easy to find healthy alternatives.
  • As mobile applications continue to proliferate, partner with healthy eating application (or internally develop such) as a key portion of your shopping app content.
  • As with any program, listen to your shoppers and continue to evolve with their needs. This is a topic that will trend in different directions frequently.

For numerous reasons, “healthy eating” is a topic that will remain in the forefront of consumer thinking, but it is the extent that supermarket retailers provide ease and value of choosing a healthy alternative that will accelerate shopper adaption.  For those that do it well, it can be a significant point of differentiation!

 

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