As demand for quality health and nutrition advice grows, supermarkets are moving beyond their roles as food retailers and into the realm of wellness providers. We first saw this a couple years ago, when companies began adding dietitians and in-store clinics, and now it’s evolved into partnerships with area hospitals and healthcare experts.
This approach offers a way for both parties to grow awareness while still sticking to what they do best. Back in September, for example, Big Y opened  a pharmacy consultation center at one of its flagship stores that’s staffed by faculty pharmacists from the Western New England College  School of Pharmacy.
No surprise there: Shoppers trust healthcare providers for health, and food retailers for food. This week the trend continues as Food City , a leading grocer in the Tennessee and North Carolina markets, announced a partnership  with the University of Tennessee Medical Center  and its Healthy Living Kitchen program, which offers cooking classes and learning forums that utilize UT specialists. The joint venture will expand that program into Food City stores and to events sponsored by the retailer.
Like many other retailers operating in regions beset by obesity and type 2 diabetes, Food City is looking for answers. The company recently started offering NuVal  ratings on foods throughout its stores. With the Healthy Kitchen partnership, customers will get some added perspective through classes on label reading and managing conditions like celiac disease. UT’s Healthy Kitchen team is currently comprised of a dietitian, cardiac nurse specialist and an executive chef.
The effort alone will show people that Food City is serious about helping them manage their health. It also shows a good dose of sensibility bringing the expertise of UT Medical Center into the fold.
Indeed, knowing their role seems key for retailers’ future success as wellness providers. Shoppers want supermarkets to offer healthy foods, to tell them where they came from and what they contain. But translating all those choices into action often falls outside their purview. In those cases, a strategic partnership can be both the easiest and most effective solution.