Supermarkets are mining the publication field to satisfy their shoppers insatiable hunger for health-related information.
Even though there is no shortage of information on these topics, it seems consumers can't get enough of it.
"Health magazines are ripe for cultivation and a strong category with especially good growth in supermarkets,"said Bill Kidd, executive vice president of Bay News, Portland, Ore., which services supermarket chains such as Albertson's.
Over the last 15 years, the number of editorial pages in all magazines devoted to health topics has grown 300%, said Mary Morgan, vice president and publisher of Health magazine, a Time Inc. publication in New York. The Magazine Publishers of America, New York, reports that health magazines now include 779 titles.
An all-pervasive and nearly all-consuming interest in health and well-being, by consumers in a wide age range, is driving demand, say publishing executives. It's simply today's lifestyle, they say. Besides Health, other leading mass-market health titles are: Prevention, Self, Men's Health, Shape, Fitness and American Health.
"We define the category as healthy active living," said Patrick Taylor, director of corporate communications for Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa., which publishes Prevention, the top-circulated health magazine in the country. However, the category has greatly broadened over the years from hard-core interests such as running to encompass everything from organic gardening to healthy cooking, he said.
Morgan agreed. The editorial slant of Health magazine has come to focus much more on lifestyle in the 11 years of its existence, she said. Health's coverage has softened, now with less medical news and a full third of its editorial devoted to beauty and grooming. "Looking good and feeling good are intrinsically linked," she said.
This broader coverage of health offers food chains opportunities to generate extra newsstand sales and to enhance their own image as health and wellness providers. Therefore, supermarkets are selectively pulling health titles from the mainline rack and cross merchandising them in appropriate food and nonfood departments across the entire store -- at pharmacy, within the natural-food department, in health and beauty care, by organic produce.
Pay Less Supermarkets is working with its magazine supplier, United Magazine Co., Dublin, Ohio, to test the cross merchandising of assorted health and nutrition titles in different areas of the store. This is a move "to boost sales of magazines and the products in related areas of the store," said Rod Boni, grocery merchandiser at the chain, based in Anderson, Ind.
The health and fitness trend is focusing increased consumer attention on magazines with articles about produce and other fresh foods and healthy cooking, he said.
"People realize the low-fat fad didn't work, and the trend now is eating healthy and not merely dieting. Since we're in the food business we, obviously, need to address that," he said.
Boni said the secondary magazine-display racks will be arranged at unused space by aisle poles and freestanding island cases. "We want to increase the exposure of those magazines that are tied to that department or that have a seasonal match," he explained.
Donna Gains, assistant vice president of nonfood at Metro Food Market, Randallstown, Md., said that consumer interest in healthy cooking and healthier living has prompted the retailer to cross merchandise health and nutritional magazines.
The surging consumer interest in whole health motivated Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's to expand a health and nutrition magazine and book fixture program to some 88 pharmacy departments, according to distributor sources.
During the test period, which began last November, the fixture generated average weekly sales of $50 per store at 15 units, said a source familiar with the program. Albertson's is expected to roll out the display to additional stores this month and in February, said the source. The chain had no comment.
The display rack, containing eight to 10 health and nutrition titles and books, is positioned near the pharmacy service counter.
"We're evaluating secondary locations for health and nutrition magazines," said Andrew Carrano, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs at A&P, Montvale, N.J., because of all the shopper interest in health.
Fitness, healthy living and natural-food magazines are well suited as tie-ins with product displays that promote healthier lifestyles, said Mark Johnson, corporate director of merchandising at United Grocers, Portland, Ore.
"One of the big things happening is taking the whole natural-food category and building a whole [related-publication] section around it. That would include all health and fitness, gourmet-cooking and natural-food periodicals," said the wholesaler.
Due to the heightened interest in health and nutrition, the food industry is seeing a groundswell of "retailers aggressively going after the natural- and health-food niche in a bigger way than before," said Johnson.
He believes cross promoting periodicals on subjects that relate to health and fitness issues can stimulate new interest in the book and magazine segment.
Space issues haven't deterred Holiday Markets, Cottonwood, Calif., from outposting health magazines. The retailer is clip-stripping health and fitness magazines to product fixtures, said Mike Peterson, nonfood director.
"Any time you display at another location, it triggers impulse sales. Natural food is an area that best lends itself to cross merchandising these kinds of titles," the retailer said.
Peterson added that linking health and fitness magazines with natural-food assortments appeals to "people trying to live longer. They know low- or no-fat diets and skipping meals don't really work, and that eating natural and fresh foods does."
Although there are many niche titles in the marketplace, "The bottom line," said Kidd of Bay News, "is that more health titles are mainstream," along with the health movement.