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Coming Full Circle

Coming Full Circle

This year’s Expo West is just getting going today, but already it’s clear that a major theme is the continued mainstreaming of the health and wellness movement

A panel this morning called “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” underscored how earlier lessons about health are just now being translated into new initiatives at the retail level.

That’s particularly evident with the plethora of nutrition labeling systems hitting stores. Harriett Hentges, vice president of corporate responsibility and sustainability at Ahold USA, outlined how her company came to launch its new labeling program called Healthy Ideas.

“We looked at existing labeling systems and saw pros and cons,” she said. “We had some concerns. One of the existing systems, for example, didn’t make transparent how its formula was determined.”

So Ahold spent a year-and-a-half researching its effort based on input from consumers and a scientific advisory panel. That newly unveiled campaign, now at Stop & Shop and Giant Food, focuses on items in the My Pyramid food group of the USDA.

And it’s attracting a lot of interest from shoppers. So far this year some 30% of hits on the chains’ web sites involve pages devoted to Healthy Ideas, Hentges said. Meanwhile, suppliers are asking questions about how to tie into the program.

This Expo West educational panel addressed the big-picture landscape for health-oriented products. That’s an important topic for marketers, and the directions are becoming clearer, said Maryellen Molyneaux, president, Natural Marketing Institute (pictured below left, with Ahold's Hentges).

“The 2009 trend is toward convergence of health and sustainability,” she said. “That’s driving new product development. The question is, ‘How do my products provide both of these benefits?’ That’s what a brand has to consider now.”

Mollyneaux pointed to other key consumer trends for 2009, including the need to maintain “balanced energy” rather than ups and downs; a move to eliminate anything toxic from all aspects of life, including in relationships and food; and a renewed focus on “authentic, inner beauty,” including a return to interest in vintage cars and clothing.

All in all, a lot of information here from this morning session. Now that we have the big picture on trends, we’re much better armed to face the Expo show floor.