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Bright Spots Shine in SN's Annual Wellness Report

Bright Spots Shine in SN's Annual Wellness Report

Accompanying your regular issue of SN this week is a special edition of SN Whole Health: the 2009 Sourcebook. Veteran readers will know it's something we do every year. Inside, you'll find our own version of SN's Power 50, called the Fit 25.

There weren't many changes overall; the list includes what you might call “the usual suspects.” However, what makes these profiles compelling are the various projects, initiatives and programs that got each company named to the list. It's amazing how retailers continue to adapt to the needs and desires of the consumers they sell to.

In some ways certain categories were tougher to judge because the conventional supermarket channel has become fairly adept at mainstreaming and integrating health and wellness — natural, organic and green — throughout every aisle and department in stores.

The changes may be subtle to the average consumer, but they are a significant step forward for food retailers. Dietitians, nutrition ratings, special needs products, private label and local sourcing are all aspects of the business that weren't necessarily at the top of everyone's list even five years ago.

We added a few new categories this year, too, reflecting the changing marketplace. Among them are an entry for wellness blogging and another on recession-friendly merchandising. Like retailers themselves, the Fit 25 list strives to remain relevant.

The 2009 Sourcebook also examines the results of our annual online health and wellness poll. The results turned out to be sunnier than expected, given the state of the economy: A full 74% expect sales of health and wellness products and services to increase through the end of this year. What's more, industry respondents believe sales will increase an impressive 4%-6%.

Overwhelmingly, most of those polled believe it's the recession and all the concomitant headaches that are fueling the increases.

“There will be [a] focus on preventative health care… to combat increasing health care costs,” said one retailer.

A manufacturer respondent stated the same thing: “Consumers will be willing to spend more on healthy foods if they think it will help keep them out of the doctor's office and help keep medical costs down.”

In other words, it's prime time for supermarkets, and it's heartening to see that many are taking full advantage of it. The dietitians are out in the stores, the nutritional guidance is being affixed to shelves and customers are saving a little bit each time they reuse their shopping bags.

The industry has read a tremendous amount about the ways consumers are eating out less often, and entertaining at home instead. All sorts of numbers have been thrown around (including those in our Sourcebook). The big question has been whether shoppers will retain their prevention-minded buying habits once this recession is over.

Successful retailers are doing their part to make sure that happens. Everyone else might want to consider some of the best practices outlined in the profiles that make up the Fit 25 list, as well as the conclusions discussed in the poll.

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