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Activating health and wellness at retail

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

The health and wellness market continues to be an area of dynamic growth, driven by consumers seeking a higher quality of life. A puzzle for diverse stakeholders in the food industry lies in understanding how the wellness market intersects with their business, brand and category. In few places does the market so vividly present itself as an opportunity as it does within America’s food retailing industry.

Where shoppers go to buy their wellness products has changed considerably over the years. In 2000, the supermarket and grocery store channel dominated the market for food and groceries, and it commanded a significant share of the personal care and household products as well. While the grocery channel is still commonly used across all segments of consumers, today we find super-centers/mass discounters, natural food stores, club stores and specialty retailers have all made inroads.

As the following chart from our Health and Wellness 2015 report illustrates, consumers continue to source health and wellness products from a wide array of channels, in particular super-center/discount stores, grocery stores and drug stores. Especially interesting, in addition, is the popularity of Internet, specialty stores and farmer’s markets.

Source: Health and Wellness 2015 report, The Hartman Group, Inc.


Regardless of which channels they shop, with more awareness and access to products with health and wellness distinctions, consumers are developing health and wellness shopping strategies at retail. Consumers use a wide variety of channels and strategies to shop for their health and wellness products. As healthy foods and beverages (such as organic, free-range, fresh and less processed products) become more widely available in grocery, mass discount and club channels, retailers have an opportunity to build trust and value perceptions through quality, discovery and unique experiences to differentiate themselves

Consumers look for quality and freshness cues from retailers to convey product healthfulness of food and beverages. Transparency relating to sourcing and narratives describing local producers can convey an overall sense that a retailer can be trusted to offer healthy products. It is important to understand which cues ladder up to fresh and less processed in each relevant store department and to tailor each section accordingly.

As knowledge about quality distinctions like organic, non-GMO, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free has become more widely available, consumers have developed shopping strategies to take these factors into account while keeping shopping trips efficient and on-budget. Consumers who are more engaged with health and wellness weigh more factors, often making shopping especially challenging and time-consuming for them.

To assist them, in-store signage can be an efficient communication vehicle, but too much information may feel like more of a burden than a help. Consumers (especially younger ones) are increasingly turning to their mobile devices while shopping to learn more about products. Using in-store signage to direct a consumer to a retailer’s web site or app for more information for those who want it can communicate that a retailer is thoughtfully choosing products and being transparent about their offerings.

A wider selection of products with health and wellness distinctions will also improve perceptions that a retailer knows about a given category and can be trusted to source the best for its customers. Follow the lead of successful retailers in the health and wellness space to build a sense of being a health and wellness partner. Use displays, colors, and signage to convey health and wellness through store atmosphere. Finally, we recommend developing store policies for the selection of natural and specialty products and educating employees about these policies so that they can better assist customers.

Further information on the report: Health and Wellness 2015.

As CEO, Laurie Demeritt provides strategic and operational leadership for The Hartman Group’s analytics, consulting and research teams. She is a frequent keynote speaker at major industry conferences and client events. She is renowned for her adept ability to breakdown the complexities of culture and consumer behavior and translate them into solutions for clients. Get more information about The Hartman Group, or contact Blaine Becker, senior director of marketing.


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