- Consumer sentiment has changed dramatically when it comes to health and wellness, according to a new report from the Food Marketing Institute Foundation. The report looks at consumers’ feelings toward health and wellness and examines the concept of "well-being," which not only considers physical health but emotional health, energy levels and even sleep behaviors.
- When it comes to their health and well-being, about 55% of shoppers trust their primary store as an ally, up from 45% last year. While family, doctors, farmers, friends and fitness clubs rank higher, primary stores outrank other foodservice and retail channels including drugstores, online grocery providers and restaurants.
- As consumer demands change, so do their expectations of retailers’ roles in their overall well-being. Retailers are stepping up to gain shopper trust and meet the needs of consumers through a number of efforts, including free-from and organic products, providing more label transparency, investing in food as medicine, hiring health professionals and offering health-focused recipes and classes. But there’s more they can do to engage with shoppers, according to the report.
With an increased emphasis on health, wellness and well-being, shoppers are paying closer attention to their food and where it comes from than ever before. This presents a major opportunity for retailers to play a more integral role in the lives of their customers, not only with food offerings but solutions and services that will more deeply engage their customers around health.
Consumers’ commitment to healthy eating is bringing them back to grocery stores. The report finds that shoppers believe that food prepared at home is healthier, with 88% of U.S. adults saying they eat healthier when they eat at home. The report also finds that 47% of shoppers said food retailers can support their efforts to eat well through providing healthier choices — which is great news for grocers as they try to stay relevant.
Another important distinction in the report is that consumers not only want to eat healthy, but they also want to eat for enjoyment, discovery and connection. The report suggests that retailers can aid customers in the quest for eating well and healthy through offering recipes, easy grab-and-go prepared foods and recommendations on nutrition and healthy eating. There is a great deal of trust placed in health professionals, including dietitians, wellness counselors and health coaches, and according to the report about 90% of food retailer respondents employ dietitians and 67% of those retailers expect to add additional roles within two years. Even more significant, about 75% of stores are reporting that pharmacists and dietitians are collaborating to refer customers and develop wellness programs.
This has been reflected across the industry over the past year. Retailers have put a lot of effort and investment behind health and well-being, and in some cases this focus has taken center stage. Hy-Vee launched Health Market while Raley’s introduced several initiatives positioning itself as the go-to wellness grocer. There has also been an increase in in-store health clinics and on-site dietitians and an acceleration in the food as medicine trend. This is pivotal as shoppers begin to move more of their routine shopping online and retailers need to motivate their shoppers to come into brick-and-mortar locations. The ongoing rise of on-staff health professionals, in-store clinics and collaborative wellness programs provide retailers with one more touch point to connect their shoppers with wellness and well-being and to elevate the grocery experience.
As important as health and well-being is becoming in stores, retailers can’t forget about these efforts online. While brick-and-mortar may be the place to find fresh, healthy foods and talk to a dietitian, online can offer transparency about products and detailed nutrition information, as well as more personalization, the report says.
Online offerings around health and wellness may be the key to differentiation for retailers as most up the ante on their health and wellness offerings in store. If grocers don't address health and well-being online, the report suggests that there are a growing number of emerging food and grocery startups that will satisfy consumers’ needs online instead. Rather than competing with other traditional grocery stores to win customer loyalty over health and wellness, retailers will need to keep an eye on these innovators.
The desire for health and well-being presents an opportunity for grocery stores to redefine themselves from a place where food is stocked to a place where customers can go for health advice and solutions and ideas for living well — and as grocery stores meet (or even create) these needs, they will become an indispensable part of consumers’ lives.