NEW YORK -- The whole health movement best illustrates the influence and reach the GMDC's Educational Foundation projects can have on helping food retailers meet their customers' needs.
What began as a single study, "Growing Opportunities for Food Retailers in Do-It-Yourself Health," conducted by Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., in 1995, proved to have very long legs. The initial study spawned four related studies over the last decade. The whole health initiative won the cooperation of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, which underwrote one study in conjunction with the General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., and co-sponsored marketing conferences dedicated to the whole health movement.
More importantly, these studies initiated a groundswell of retailer response in trying to meet the needs of consumers in maintaining their health through good eating habits and nutritional supplements. From 1995 to the present, food retailers, both large and small, have implemented various components of whole health in their stores -- from stand-alone departments to special in-line sections dedicated to healthy eating and information.
Roy White, the GMDC's vice president of education and the executive director of its Educational Foundation here, oversees the execution and funding of the association's various studies. He is responsible for finding a resource to execute the studies and for obtaining 75% of a project's cost, which can range from $75,000 to $200,000. According to White, each study mandates a strong implementation component. In follow-up surveys, 75% of GMDC's retail members said they have changed their business practices as a result of these studies.
"GMDC is into a regular rhythm of providing studies. We are helped by the concepts. We don't deal with them as a single study. We do multiples that run two to three years. They evolve, and whole health is a good example. It will come back again."
Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Retail Marketing, Libertyville, Ill., characterizes the studies as "action education."
He points to whole health as a good example. "Whole health has aided many retailers in developing new programs directed at what may be the most critical strategic issue for an entire generation of management," Wisner said. "Beginning with the joint initiative on whole health with the Food Marketing Institute, and continuing on through the various pharmacy and retailer education programs, demographic research, over-the-counter programs and other efforts, GMDC has been the galvanizing force in helping retailers to address the health and wellness needs of their customers."
Mike Jones, vice president, business development, Del Pharmaceuticals, Uniondale, N.Y., is serving a two-year term as chairman of the Educational Foundation. He must address two major challenges. One objective is to conduct a study that satisfies the majority of GMDC's membership. That is not always so easy when the membership is comprised of different nonfood sectors -- general merchandise, health and beauty care, over-the-counter drugs and pharmacy.
The next project will be "Merchandising for Success," a study that provides retailers with a set of merchandising tactics that can make them more competitive.
Another big challenge is getting upper retail/wholesale management at the chief executive officer level to support the projects. "Nonfoods is considered a smaller part of the store volume, and it doesn't necessarily gain the support of upper management," said Jones. However, the GMDC is trying to change by going directly to chain headquarters and giving presentations to retail company executives. The GMDC took its Women's Well-Being study to Rite Aid, Kroger and Ahold. The result is that the chains' pharmacists can earn continuing-education credit through an online program made possible through the University of Illinois-Chicago on diseases affecting women's health. According to Jones, the presentations and CE opportunity was a driving force in those chains participating in the Women's Well-Being programs.
Said David McConnell Jr., president and CEO, GMDC, "It is through the Foundation that I believe we make our biggest contributions to the pharmacy side of the business. Already, we've released two widely used ACPE-accredited pharmacist continuing-education programs: One focused on whole health, and the most recent, a Web-based program produced in conjunction with the University of Illinois-Chicago, focuses on women's health and well-being. They've both proved to be highly used by retailers throughout the industry." The overall objective of the Educational Foundation, said Jones, is to "try to create long-term loyalty with consumers and the stores they are shopping."