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Partnerships a part of retailers’ wellness strategies

Forming partnerships with industry vendors as well as non-industry companies can help supermarket retailers strengthen their health and wellness business, speakers told a seminar audience earlier this month.

Speaking at “Supermarket News at Expo West: Driving Health and Wellness in Supermarkets,” Margaux Drake, “Living Well” lifestyle expert for D&W Fresh Market, Grand Rapids, Mich., suggested an outside-the-box approach.

“You can’t make someone decide to be health-and-wellness-minded,” she said, “so you have to find people who have already made that decision — people who are wide open to trying new things — and get them into your stores.”

Selecting a Partner

Drake said she seeks out corporate partners whose customers tend to lead active, healthy lifestyles, including Grand Rapids Bicycle Co., which specializes in performance equipment for road and triathlon racing; Gazelle Sports, a Michigan-based sporting goods retailer; and Subaru, which aims its advertising at outdoor-oriented consumers.

John Creed of Unified Grocers said the company relies on brokers to educate sales teams about health and wellness products. Margaux Drake of D&W Fresh Market looks for health-focused partners to collaborate with on wellness initiatives.
John Creed of Unified Grocers said the company relies on brokers to educate sales teams about health and wellness products. Margaux Drake of D

“We find their customers and tell them we have the kind of products they are looking for,” she explained.

To attract their attention, D&W hosts special events, including spin classes and “fun runs,” that allow for direct interface with potential customers, Drake said, followed immediately by store tours to show off what D&W has available.

“If you can get food in the customers’ hands and get them to experience it, they’ll be back to buy it,” she said.

For other consumers, giving out in-store samples of organic milk and cookies, for example, helps D&W move toward its ultimate goal, Drake noted — “to make traditional customers into lifestyle customers and get them involved in the health and wellness community.”

John Creed, category manager for natural, frozen and dairy for Unified Grocers, Los Angeles-based member-owned cooperative, said collaboration, particularly with traditional partners, enables retailers to create an environment where customers know they can go for certain products, “and those partnerships will continue to grow as retailers look for ways to set themselves apart.”

Healthier Opportunities

“Consumers want healthier opportunities for food and personal care choices, and independents are looking for ways to take advantage of that trend. HBW allows retailers to become a destination store — to create a signature category and add personality to the store,” as well as provide an opportunity for independents to differentiate themselves from the competition and build business in a challenging category with increased sales and profits, he added.


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“We work with manufacturers to provide members with market analysis, schematics, category reviews and new product itemization,” he said. “Brokers are also important because they understand local markets and can help facilitate merchandising strategies and drive sales, along with providing market insights and data analysis. Plus, we rely on brokers to educate our sales teams about different product lines.”

Creed said sales of natural and organic health, beauty and wellness products are growing. “While conventional HBW sales are trending down, natural and organic HBW sales are growing up to 10% a year,” he said.

Drake also said sales of healthy products have risen at D&W, “and we are impacting people’s lives, and that’s pretty cool. For us, health and wellness is not just something we talk about — we’re out in the community promoting it face-to-face, and that enables people to trust you more.”

Supermarkets need to get store-level people committed to a health and wellness program, she added. “You need them to buy into the program and get excited about it because that will make or break a campaign.”

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