SN: With consumers putting more emphasis on health and nutrition, what changes do you expect in your company's marketing mix? HOSEY: Because of the growing interest in health and nutrition, there will be more in-store emphasis on perishables. We'll see more low-fat and fat-free products, and more emphasis on produce, seafood and poultry. And the meat people are going to develop more leaner beef. OMERNICK: The perimeter departments will grow, and we'll see more health-oriented products -- for example, low-sodium cheeses, low-fat meats and deli salads that use a lighter base than mayonnaise. And I'd love to see nutritional labels on products made in-store, such as fat-free baked goods and healthier breads. As time goes by, these products taste better and better.
in the number of healthy items, and we hope that will help consumers adopt balanced diets.
With that in mind, we've adopted the M-Fit program on nutritional labeling, in conjunction with the University of Michigan Medical Center, to help people make healthier choices. The program emphasizes choice -- it tells consumers they can eat anything in moderation.
One constant we find is that if food doesn't taste good, it doesn't matter how nutritious it is; consumers won't eat it. We saw that with fat-free muffins that sold well initially but didn't get return business because they didn't taste good.
So assuming the consumer decides to eat healthier, the first step begins at the grocery stores, and we have to help them make those choices.
We're putting new nutrition labels on foods, but if consumers aren't educated, the labels won't mean anything. Consumers are hungry for information, and one way to supply them with that information is through nutritional labeling seminars featuring local health experts and FDA personnel. We had 200 people sign up for our first seminar without any advertising, and we contemplate holding six more meetings over the next year.
SCROGGINS: We will continue to provide the kind of nutritional information consumers want, though we're not sure the consumer is using it to the extent they say they are. Taste is still an overriding factor.
Consumers have little tolerance for being told something is good today and bad tomorrow. Until nutrition is a more exact science, consumers aren't going to pay much attention to it.
Consumers are certainly concerned and interested in nutrition as it impacts their families and especially their children. But they all talk a better nutrition story than they actually do.
I'm not sure what it will take to change that attitude. Perhaps it will change when the industry is more settled and there's more data than simply saying a product is good or bad. Things are still changing as we learn, and we have to communicate to consumers that nutrition is an evolving science. McEWAN: I don't foresee a lot of change in the area of health. We've focused a lot of attention on providing more information on all the products we sell, including nutritional labels, and the consumer will dictate what additional types of products we label.
NOWAK: More customers are aware of how to read labels and more knowledgeable about what products they want and don't want in their diets, so supermarkets can't bluff them. We have to be sensitive to their needs in the health field.