GHQ Cover Story 3/06: Whole Health Education

Discussion
Mar 07, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Through special arrangement with Grocery Headquarters magazine, we present these opportunities to discuss the subjects of GHQ’s monthly cover
stories.


Grocery stores can be excused for feeling a little squeezed these days. With discounters taking
vitamin and supplement sales from them on one side and natural food stores grabbing a share with organic food offerings, traditional supermarkets are fighting a two-front battle
for a consumer population increasingly focused on health issues.


“We’re self-medicating, and self-medicating has gone beyond just taking Tylenol or drinking tea when you don’t feel well,” Scott Van Winkle, managing director of Canaccord Adams told Grocery Headquarters. “It’s gone even further into ‘I’m going to eat so I don’t get sick’ or ‘I know what to eat when I am sick.’ “


The increasing prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes are serving to make consumers sit up and take responsibility for their health issues. Seven percent of the population, according to the American Diabetic Association, has some form of diabetes.


Steve French, managing partner of the Natural Marketing Institute and RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, said consumer focus is the key to taking advantage of the whole health opportunity.


Those most concerned with whole health issues are identified by NMI as “well-beings”.


“Basically, they’re driven to health by a whole variety of different means and modalities, meaning foods, beverages, personal care, HBA products and so on,” he said of the group that NMI pegs at 23 percent of the general population.


“They have a strong preference for products that are natural and organic. They’re very much into environmental linkage, and they’re what we would call values-based opinion leaders. So they’re a very attractive group of consumers that influence others and are on trend with some products,” he added.


Those products, say experts, span across product categories requiring retailers to develop a holistic approach defined in their marketing and merchandising strategies and tactics.


Bill Bishop, president of Willard Bishop Consulting and RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, said, “I think that the first level of whole health is simply recognizing that there’s a sort of cross-category do-it-yourself-health going across food, HBC and some general merchandise, and just to recognize that people are sort of trying to solve that problem across categories. Just kind of think of it in the same way that grocers would put together a meal solution to solve a dinner problem.”


Education is the key, say many, to realizing the potential of the whole health market opportunity. Stores are using educational brochures, signage and in-store kiosks as a means to provide the resources consumers need to make informed decisions.


Retailers also need to do a much better job of using the expertise of in-store pharmacy staff to establish a store’s whole health credentials.


Special events are also another means for stores to promote their whole health expertise. According to the Grocery Headquarters piece, in-store events around Natural Cholesterol Education Awareness Month and National Women’s Health Week provide highly targeted opportunities for retailers.


In-store clinics are also gaining in popularity, although some believe that the grocery channel has let others get a head start.


“Those things were offered to the supermarkets five years ago, and today most of the installations are going on in drug stores or mass,” said Mr. Bishop. 


Moderator’s Comment: What is your take on the whole health market opportunity and your recommendations for retailers
truly interested in taking advantage of it?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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8 Comments on "GHQ Cover Story 3/06: Whole Health Education"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 8 hours ago

Although healthy eating is a refrain in numerous grocers’ advertising, it often is just repeated as part of the rest of the advertising noise, so it has minimal impact. The best positioned major grocery retailer brand name is Whole Foods. The clear implication is “wholesomeness” which is associated with health. It’s hard for conventional groceries to portray themselves allied to health when their major features often include categories that seem the opposite (many cold cereals, cigarettes, items with artificial flavor and color, patent medicines, etc.) Of course, eliminating those categories would bring screams of customer anguish and de-emphasizing them is very hard from a financial point of view. No single retailer can please everyone. Retailing, like most businesses, means choosing a position.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 hours ago

Self-medicating is one of those things that really isn’t going away in a hurry. It often goes hand in hand, however, with misinformation, confusion, wishful thinking and ignorance. Which means, as usual, that trust and perception are the areas on which retailers need to focus. Education is good but time consuming and shoppers aren’t likely to stand around in the store reading closely printed leaflets. They want clarity, transparency and simplicity. Stores that can find a way to make a wide range of products available while simultaneously pointing out their potential (and possible/probable) advantages alongside their potential risks or contra-indicative properties will be way ahead. Add to that an easy path to finding whatever they choose, and loyalty would be ensured. Not that I believe it will happen easily if at all. As a certain famous man once (sort of) said – you can please some of the people all of the time but you ain’t hardly likely to please all of them all the time.

Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
15 years 8 hours ago
The whole health opportunity was big ten years ago, and is now probably the most significant growth platform for food retailers. Unfortunately, with a few key exceptions, retailers aren’t looking at it that way. Our advice to retailers who want to grow this portion of the business can be top-lined in the following ways. > Document the upside opportunity that exists today in your own business by comparing your current sales development with best-in-class operators across a broad range of categories, including but not limited to organics, dietary supplements, produce categories with particularly strong health promises like pomegranate, HBC categories with a feel-good and/or look-good connotation, medical supplies, e.g., diagnostic and monitoring tests >Develop a store-wide positioning that alerts your shoppers to your commitment to their health and wellness. >Develop information programs on selected whole health products that can be delivered both on the shelf and over the Internet. The Prevention/FMI Shopping for Health study is just coming out. Be sure you see this report to get the latest on shopper perspectives and needs regarding… Read more »
John P. Roberts
Guest
John P. Roberts
15 years 8 hours ago

Retailers that make the right decisions regarding the health care opportunity will not use a category management approach. They will identify the profit potential of the consumer category, not just in terms of health food product sales/margins but in terms of the total store profit from all the customer’s purchases.

I’d bet that some loyalty card data analyses would show households indexing above average on health related items; they’d also index higher on purchases in higher margin departments and on total dollars spent, and would also prove to have higher household income levels. Additionally, they are likely to spend more food dollars in the regular grocery channel, and more of their total ‘food at home’ dollars at a single store that meets all their needs, because time is more important then money.

Working with a full line distributor who can arrange store specific product assortments will allow a retailer to quickly establish an impressive product range, and to move quickly to meet consumers ever changing interests.

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 8 hours ago
I think the answer comes to us from two unrelated sources; pet food stores and food stores selling prepared packaged meals. Some time back I wrote about the need for a pet food store that would either label which pet products are actually good for your pet or, better, sell such products exclusively. In other words, no sugary junk food – which I swear makes up 98% of pet food sales. Lesson #1. Sell the supplements, etc. that actually deliver what they say. With some “health” products the gelatin capsule is better for you than what’s in it. Separate the wheat from the chaff for the consumer. Supermarkets employ more chefs than restaurants these days and you can get complete, superb ready-to-eat meals almost anywhere. It’s all assembled for you in one spot. Lesson #2. Assemble what I need organized around my health issue. Let’s say you’re concerned about prostate health (guys, get that checked out if you haven’t done so in a while) – I’d find it very helpful to find not only literature… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 8 hours ago

The issues that interest consumers most come with the times. We have seen transient eras where Taste, Value, Favor, Fashion, Style, Diet, Price, Exotic beverages and other trends have sculptured past and prevailing consumer opinions. Today Health is a prime topic with potential sustainable profitability, and rightly so. Too many Americans have made their bodies human dumpsters and that dilemma is being focused on nationally.

I won’t try to improve on the capitalizing processes outlined above to take advantage of Health Retailing, but I’d suggest that large retailers consider creating their own special Health boutiques or adjacent Health stores. In that way they can better project sincere Health concerns and high-level expertise rather than having them get challenged by the other 50,000 or so items in most stores today that attempt to create consumer beliefs that they are the best answer to a better life.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 8 hours ago

A new trend in foods is “nutriceuticals” – adding healthful ingredients to foods. Eating healthy has been a concern for awhile. Using a particular diet because of a disease is also a growing concern. As with all other food-related movements, this is a challenge for the grocery stores. The grocery store has all the ingredients and sells all the products. However, it doesn’t specialize or emphasize so consumers turn to other providers who are perceived to have more variety, more expertise, or more qualified staff. As with other trends, the grocery store managers need to determine if this is an issue for its valuable consumers and, if it is, figure out how to respond to their needs.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 8 hours ago

While health issues are becoming increasingly important, a retailer must still wonder whether this is a passing trend…another Atkins Diet fad…or if this is the future. The retailer must listen to their customer base and look to satisfy their needs. An earlier panelist commented that retailers, as in life, must take a stand. My question would be, if the retailer does take a stand, is the retailer not leaving out a huge segment of their customers? I like to think I eat healthy, but every once in a while…okay maybe more than once in a while…I want my bacon and candy bar and cookies. Why can’t the retailer cater to both my needs?

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