The health food movement is no longer a niche business
A wake-up call from an international health summit held last month in Sydney, Australia, warned that life expectancy could begin to decline for the first time in more than a century if the world does not tackle an epidemic of chronic diseases.
Ruth Colagiuri, an associate professor of public health at the University of Sydney, told the gathering of health and business groups that fresh food needed to become more affordable and the sugar, fat and salt content of food must be reduced. “The way we live now is making us sick. It's making our planet sick, and it's not sustainable,” Colagiuri told attendees, according to press reports.
Against this backdrop, SN examines how various channels of trade, including food service, are responding to what borders on a health care crisis not only in the U.S. but worldwide.
Consumer demands for better health have suddenly impacted the old supermarket model, where volume and price were once common denominators. Greater demand for natural and organic foods has forced supermarkets to shift their focus away from price and volume to quality, value, taste, lifestyle and information on healthy eating.
The Retail feature traces the evolution of what started with the natural health food movement more than 30 years ago and is now changing traditional food retailing in many supermarket chains today.
Alternative channels — mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs, drug stores — have all recognized the benefits of selling food as a traffic driver. More and more, these retailers, too, are realizing that it's not just convenience that counts; consumers are increasingly looking for foods that are also nutritious. When it comes to health care, these channels have an advantage in offering services and merchandise that extend into the professional health care field. For example, Nonfood Strategies looks at the growing importance health care clinics and targeting specific disease states play in driving consumers to their local drug stores.
Nutrition is a vital component of whole health, as food-service companies have come to recognize. Fresh Market reports on how food-service companies are promoting consumer awareness about maintaining a healthy diet, and what food retailers can learn from these innovative programs.
Offering healthful private-label product is one way mass merchandisers and club stores are branding themselves as purveyors of nutritious foods. Center Store examines the role healthful store-brand products play within the mass merchandiser channels.
According SN's 2007 Survey of Center Store Performance, 68% of those polled said they planned to bolster their health and wellness positioning this year by implementing nutritional shelf tags and signage as well as by disseminating healthy information via newsletters and online information.
In short, the link between eating well and disease prevention, coupled with the mainstreaming of the natural health food movement, has spawned a revolution in food retailing and food service that few in the industry can afford to ignore.