WHOLE HEALTH

NEW YORK -- The General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., will develop a series of educational programs over the next two years centered on the whole-health marketing initiative, it was announced at a press conference here, April 8.The programs, supported by leading suppliers in the health care field, are being developed to hasten and facilitate the food channel's implementation

NEW YORK -- The General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., will develop a series of educational programs over the next two years centered on the whole-health marketing initiative, it was announced at a press conference here, April 8.

The programs, supported by leading suppliers in the health care field, are being developed to hasten and facilitate the food channel's implementation of whole-health strategies, which are considered to be of major importance to mass-market retailing over the next several years.

"Whole health is an immensely powerful marketing concept," said Roy White, GMDC's vice president of education and executive director of the GMDC's Educational Foundation. "We are responding to rapidly growing demand for information and learning on whole health, both from within our membership and without. Supermarket operators and grocery wholesalers across the country are setting up whole-health committees to assess potential and structure implementation plans," he said.

The programs will be designed to encompass both non-food and food categories as it relates to medicine and nutrition under one marketing concept. "One of the most appealing aspects of it for GMDC is its call for interdepartmental collaboration," said Dave McConnell, senior vice president, chief operating officer and president-elect.

This will be demonstrated at an upcoming Whole Health Continuing Pharmacy Education Seminar, the first is scheduled to take place at Bi-Lo, Greenville, N.C., June 22, where both chain pharmacists and other store executives will meet to discuss how to best serve consumers' needs for healthy products. The seminar includes a printed continuing education (CE) lesson covering the pharmacist's role in whole health, nutrition and natural products.

Temple University School of Pharmacy is the American Council Pharmaceutical Education accredited provider. Those pharmacists who participate in the seminar will earn three credits.

"It's designed for pharmacists and non-pharmacists. It's an opportunity to have pharmacists talk to others within the store on how to make whole health a reality and provide consumers with meaningful value," explained Jim Wisner, an associate for Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill. The Bishop Consulting firm, which conducted the original research on the emerging whole-health movement for the GMDC, is spearheading the continuing education portion of GMDC's whole-health projects.

Since whole health is consumer driven and crosses all trade channels, there is some urgency for the food channel to take a leading position in the movement before other competitive retailing formats exploit it.

As a sponsoring partner of GMDC's whole-health programs, P&G is providing extensive consumer research and educational materials relative to whole health from its Healthy Lifestyles program, in addition to financial support.

Said Wally Murray, associate director, industry affairs, P&G, "This is a movement that has a life. It's not an event. It has a lot of positive characteristics that make for good consumer products-based marketing."

Other companies lending their support to GMDC's whole-health projects are SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, McNeil consumer Healthcare, Bayer Corporation's Consumer Care Division; Nature's Bounty and Supervalu.

Wholesaler Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., also has signed onto the CE pharmacy program, which also will be showcased at GMDC's HBC Marketing Conference, Marco Island, Fla., Sept. 24 to 29. The GMDC expects to sign up a total of 12 chains that will host seminars this year.

A two-day Whole-Health Education Conference, jointly sponsored by GMDC and the Food Marketing Institute, also is on the agenda this year. This conference, June 17 to 18 in Chicago, will explore topics pertinent to the whole-health-marketing concept.

The GMDC plans to form an advisory committee, chaired by P&G's Murray, to direct the association in its whole-health curriculum.