More supermarkets are utilizing health, diet and wellness books to enhance the shopping experience, and sell subsidiary products.
Not only are consumers buying more books on health topics, but they are turning to supermarkets that carry these books and using them as a handy reference center, say retailers.
According to research from Simba Information, Stamford, Conn., health books represent about 5% of the total consumer book market, about $480 million. It is one of the fastest growing book segments, showing a 28% growth over the past four years, as compared to a 12% growth rate for the total consumer book market during the same period.
Much of the growth has come from non-traditional book sellers, including supermarkets, drug stores, mass merchandisers and club stores. Publishing industry estimates put supermarkets' share of the total health-book market from as little as 3% to as high as 10%. It also estimates that sales of health books have grown about 40% in supermarkets over the past three years.
Andronico's Markets, Albany, Calif., is one of many chains around the country that has integrated health books into other grocery sections. In this case, it's within their Living Healthy Centers. "We have an expansive library of health books," noted Randi Meyer, category manager. "They are an integral part of the set up," she said.
Book offerings include a wide range of health topics, such as diet and weight loss, herbal supplements, eating better and vegetarian books. Top sellers include books on alternative medicine, nutritional healing and healthy living. Meyer said customers also use the book wall as a reference center.
Over 70% of Prevention/Women's Health books from Rodale Inc., Emmaus, Pa., are generated by supermarkets, according to Dick Terlaak Poot, national marketing director.
In December, Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegman's Food Markets sponsored a cooking demonstration promotion at its new Bridgewater, N.J., store that featured Rodale's Tom Nye, who is known as The Healthy Chef.
As part of the promotion, Prevention's "The Healthy Cook -- The Illustrated Kitchen Guide," was given as a door prize. The book was also featured prominently on the selling floor.
New York-based Random House, for the past three years, has been running a health and wellness book promotion, from January to April in supermarkets. This program involves a variety of floor displays containing the publishers' best-selling health and wellness books. Last year, the promotion resulted in a 50% increase in sales of the books, as compared with the previous year, according to a company spokesperson.
Improved merchandising of health books by supermarkets is driving sales increases not only on the reading racks, but in other core grocery sections as well.
Mark Slater, president of Newmark Media in Addison, Ill, a specialist in the distribution of health and diet books in supermarkets and natural food stores, said these books help sell other products as well.
"We schedule many promotions to tie in with national promotions of certain foods," said Slater. "Consumers are becoming more aware of the health value of soy and soy products. April is National Soy Month, and we are putting together a floor display of books dealing with tofu and soy.
"Books that perform best are those that are about healthy cooking, and those that are about certain health problems like diabetes and chronic fatigue," said Slater. One category showing strong interest is juicing, he noted.
Among the best-selling titles that Newmark distributes to supermarkets are: "Tofu Cookery," "Tofu Quick and Easy," "Your Organic Kitchen," "Dr. Atkins Quick & Easy Diet Cookbook," "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Menopause," "Eat Right 4 Your Own Type," "Art of Cooking for the Diabetic," "Juicing for Life" "Chronic Fatigue," and "Fibromyalgia."
Slater said that books are usually merchandised in stores by integrating them with other products, or in those stores that are embracing whole health, especially those utilizing a store-within-a-store format.
One chain Newmark has worked with is Copps Food Centers, Stevens Point, Wis., which has 23 stores, 20 with natural food departments.
Russell Haines, natural foods merchandiser for Copps, pointed out that space considerations limit the number of health, fitness and diet books in many of the stores. "But in Madison and Green Bay, where the stores have 5-foot racks, books do exceptionally well," he said.
Haines pointed out that Newmark reviews the sales of books and replaces those that are slow, usually with a title in the same category.
"One of the promotions we have coming up is for 'Your Organic Kitchen,' by Jesse Ziff Cool, and we will cross-merchandise it in the produce department. It will tie in with the author's appearance on 'The Food Network."'