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Expo West show wrap-up: How to take mainstream retail forward

Expo West show wrap-up: How to take mainstream retail forward

The Expo West experience can be daunting for new attendees, with an overwhelming number of exhibitors and products, and attributes ranging from organic to non-GMO to superfood.

Those who pace themselves and keep the big picture in mind, however, will come away with smart solutions for their businesses.

There's really no choice for supermarkets, because they have to keep embracing smart solutions. The stakes are too high.

SN's 2014 health and wellness survey of the food industry, just published, found just how strongly the momentum is building. Some 82% of respondents, and 75% of retailers and wholesalers, said health and wellness categories showed sales increases over the past 12 months. Moreover, almost half of those respondents said health and wellness sales increased by 10% or more last year, a remarkable number that follows gains in recent years too.

Supermarkets are benefiting from all the good news, but they realize the competition is strong. More than half of conventional food retailers identified natural food stores as the strongest competitor to supermarkets in health and wellness sales, with selection as the main competitive advantage.


Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.

Supermarkets attending Expo West were no doubt considering how to keep moving their momentum forward. SN's half-day series of educational panels provided some answers. These included the need to offer sophisticated signage and nutritional labeling at the shelf, but also to not forget about the need for one-on-one engagement between retailers and shoppers. This requires that retail associates are educated on the wellness topic.

Retailers were also urged to become health advocates, embrace transparency, and help reduce the amount of consumer confusion about health and wellness. In fact, the importance of reducing confusion came up repeatedly at Expo West in educational sessions, because it seems to be a topic that impacts far more than just mainstream retailers.

Read more: SN's coverage of Natural Products Expo West

Retailers were also told to make health and wellness interesting and exciting. This includes launching kids programs to start the younger set early, and building partnerships that bring interesting programs to stores.

Jay Jacobowitz
Jay Jacobowitz

One of the most important points at the SN event was raised in the form of a question by panelist Jay Jacobowitz, president, Retail Insights. Here's how he put it:

"Why is health and wellness a separate discussion in the grocery channel? Why isn't it integral to the model?"

That's an excellent question that I hope the industry will really ponder in 2014. If we do nothing more than address that topic, we will have moved further along the road to making supermarkets into first-class providers of health and wellness strategies and services for consumers.

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