Selling health and wellness must be a total store experience for it to succeed with consumers, industry executives said during a panel discussion in Anaheim, Calif., at “Supermarket News at Expo West: Driving Health and Wellness at Supermarkets.”
“Health and wellness is where food and pharmacy intersect,” Raymond McCall, SVP of pharmacy for Ahold USA, Quincy, Mass., said. “It’s the relationship that develops among the pharmacist, the nutritionist, the HBA department and grocery that makes for a realistic approach.”
For Ahold to commit to a realistic health and wellness approach at a particular store requires that 25% of the complete product mix must consist of health-oriented products, he added.
Consumers are beginning to demand healthier choices, McCall said, noting that some shoppers have asked Ahold to focus endcaps on healthier products.
“We need to make a paradigm shift and educate our category managers and merchandisers to be more open-minded about what we display, rather than doing the same old, same old, because we have to change as the culture evolves.
“We can’t afford to be tactical. We must be very strategic.”
Stephanie Steiner, director of sales and marketing for the Market Centre Natural division of Unified Grocers, Los Angeles, said getting retailers to initiate a health and wellness program requires they be educated. “You can’t just flip a switch and be in that business. It’s an ongoing process of educating team members so they can pass information on to consumers.
“We believe the more training and education you can give the consumer, the better the program will be.”
Thomas Honer, owner of two Harvest Farms IGA stores in Northern California, said educating consumers must start with children. “You’re not going to change people who are already indoctrinated. So we’ve worked with the local school district for the past seven years offering a fruit or vegetable of the month, donating enough produce so every student can bring products home.
“As a result kids are pressuring their parents to buy healthier foods rather than asking to go to MacDonald’s.”
McCall said Ahold puts out a magazine, Healthy Ideas, four times a year geared to kids. “If we can educate them at a young age, it can help their parents make the right choices,” he noted.
Steiner said she is not a fan of programs that provide shelf labels to guide shoppers on what’s healthy.
“You need more information than ‘healthy/not healthy’ on shelf tags.
“Good health can’t be managed with algorithms. It’s about developing personal relationships with pharmacists and other store personnel so consumers learn how to make good choices on their own. It’s the consumer who must be empowered to make his own decisions, and that has to be our goal in promoting health and wellness.”
McCall also said retailers shouldn’t rely solely on shelf tags to provide guidance. “You have to be careful about the information on the shelf tags. You can’t keep cluttering the tags with too much information. What you want to do is leverage the in-store nutritionist and other resources to explain what the labels mean.”
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