Health Advocacy via Retail

As a nod to health-centric shopper behavior, the food retail environment continues to evolve by delivering health and wellness in a variety of forms — from providing access to health and wellness information, to curating healthy food choices, and providing in-store health care services.
By Sanjay Kumar

Several top food retailers today are willing to walk that extra mile and take the lead in establishing their health-and-wellness programs. Apart from rolling out “good-for-you products,” be it their own or a national brand offering, retailers are offering their customers content like healthy recipes and product samples as well as providing menu labels with health information. Many top retailers are also deploying in-store dietitians to help shoppers make informed choices.

According to an industry study, food retailers have a big opportunity to enhance their health-and-wellness programming by extending health-and-wellness initiatives to both offline and online shoppers. Such initiatives not only act as a business growth opportunity, but also as a way to meet consumer expectations.

Increasingly, retailers have come to understand their value as both a destination and partner in a shopper’s health-and-wellness journey. Industry experts say that retailers enjoy a long runway for growing their sales by offering a spectrum of health-and-wellness programming, especially around activities that provide more shopper experiences and product assortment.

With food shoppers increasingly looking for products with a health halo, retailers can sharpen their focus on providing more of value-added healthy products like dry fruits, nuts, spices and other premium food products associated with health and wellness. They can add dehydrated fruits like kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple to the product mix besides also offering a range of herbs and seasonings such as oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, mixed herbs, etc.

Specialty stores like Nuts ‘n’ Spices, which operates 35 stores in Chennai and adjacent regions has made its name by offering a large variety of products such as dry fruits, spices, herbs, health products, sugar-free products, imported chocolates and biscuits, imported dairy products, imported ice creams, frozen foods and many more gourmet products. The store also stocks syrups and juices from International and Indian brands. From Pringles to Doritos to Mumbai’s sukhi bhel, low calorie namkeens, oil-free papads, mixtures and other diet snacks for the fitness freaks, the store serves as a one stop destination for a whole lot of healthy snacking ideas.

“The aspiration levels of customers are going through an upward evolution. More and more customers are becoming aware of themselves, of what they consume and impact of the products they buy on their health and the world. And this is changing the way they look at their lives and what they consume,” says Pearlraj Cannivadi, VP-Marketing, SPAR Hypermarkets, which operates 25 large stores across 9 cities of India. He adds: “For us health foods are a very promising segment. As a consequence of the sedentary lifestyle most of us lead these days, pursuing an ‘active life’ has become a quest. We identify ourselves as contributing significantly in this space by offering a range of healthy food products and solutions to our shoppers.”

SPAR Hypermarkets is taking the health and wellness space very passionately and is looking at enriching the lives of customers by bringing in interactive and innovative ways to educate them on living in a healthier manner. It has been encouraging organic and locally grown products in all its stores across the country. For instance, as part of its program called SPAR Natural Range, the retailer has entered into partnerships with leading healthcare brands and professionals, building a complete program for customers with a health and wellness zone.

This commitment toward health and nutrition has also resulted in the allocation of a dedicated section in the stores called `SPAR Natural’. Within this dedicated zone, SPAR India is offering the widest variety of healthy food products or `superfoods’ like millets, herbs, seeds, and nuts. SPAR Natural also promotes organic brands of Indian origin.

Executives at Foodhall stores confirm that the superfoods category is seeing maximum demand and sales traction. “Special dietary requirement foods, which include vegan and gluten-free products, are the big trends we are seeing”, say shop executives. But it’s not just fruits and vegetables or herbs and seeds that can have a positive impact on our health. There are lots of healthful components like antioxidants, fiber, whole grains, and soy, found in a variety of foods and beverages that can make a difference in our health as we age.

Experts opine that despite their growing knowledge of what they should be eating, Indians still struggle to incorporate these key food components into their diets. The top barriers to more frequent consumption are expense, taste and availability, say the experts. However, consuming foods for health benefits doesn’t have to be expensive. Just taking simple steps, such as choosing a whole grain cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt for breakfast each day, can go a long way to improve health over time.

How can food retailers make their grocery stores both a destination and partner in a shopper’s health and wellness journey? Join 150+ speakers in thought-provoking conversations at the 15th Edition of India Food Forum — India’s largest food B2B intelligence event — on Dec 7-8 in Mumbai, for some powerful insights on this and other key trends impacting India’s food & grocery retail businesses.