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Re-Energizing Supermarket Wellness

Although most of the readers of this blog are likely already on board with the goal of making health and wellness a foundation of the supermarket, it’s still nice to have company, and to know you’re not alone in fighting the good fight. I’m happy to report that the recent Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston, sponsored by the American Dietetic Association, renewed our collective commitment.

Booths at the event featured materials that can make our jobs easier. Meetings included supermarket tours, as well as special group sessions that had a supermarket emphasis. And there was the usual networking so important to feed the enthusiasm.

Chef, television host and author Anthony Bourdain closed the meeting with thoughts that echoed the good eating and good health messages (with — if you’re familiar with him — less emphasis than usual on 4 letter words). It would seem the ball is on our playing field, the supermarket, and we need to make sure we are in the game! Here are some observations and some challenges to get us all thinking about ways to take the lead in the wellness movement:

• We continue to eat for taste but the health message is important. Teaching people to cook with health in mind is a goal at any age. So, where are you in this part of the action?

• The salt and sodium discussion is far from being finalized even with the advent of the Dietary Guidelines 2010. What can we do to keep flavor up and sodium reasonable?

• Gluten free is a growing trend that is going in many directions. The number of new products, the entry of national brands where specialties used to be the leader, the lack of clarity from FDA on the label… All of this adds up to a need for science-based interpretation that we can present to the consumer. What is your comfort level?

• The concern over obesity and related weight issues, especially children, are front and center. Health-promoting food choices, exercise and activity, and marketing responsibly are part of the social responsibility agenda. Supermarkets are a gathering place, the major food outlet for many, and the potential source of hands-on guidance. What’s on your agenda?

Clearly these are not new messages. They’ve been heard in other meetings and written about in publications circulated around the supermarket world. But we all need to hear them again. The expo, which attracted almost 10,000 food and nutrition professionals, in partnership with vendors and others, can only boost our determination to deliver the messages to our shoppers and customers.