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How grocers are looking to play a bigger role in health and wellness

February 2, 2024

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Grocers increasingly want shoppers to come to them not only for their weekly food haul, but also for services like nutritional coaching and health screenings.

Earlier this month, Meijer began offering Michigan shoppers access to a virtual nutrition coaching service led by its registered dietitians. Hy-Vee collaborated with healthcare tech company Soda Health to launch a Smart Benefits program this month that lets people receive personalized nutrition, pharmacy and other wellness benefits at its locations. Meanwhile in July, Giant unveiled a workplace wellness program aimed at local businesses and organizations, which offers meal planning workshops, cooking demonstrations and webinars.

As more people reconsider their eating habits to improve their well-being, grocers are presenting themselves as an avenue to help people achieve their health goals. In a 2023 survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, 62% of respondents cited health benefits as a key driver of food purchases. Out of 1,022 survey respondents, 55% said they frequently look at the food label at grocery stores.

Investing in health and wellness has been in vogue over the past couple of years, said Blake Droesch, senior retail and e-commerce analyst at Insider Intelligence. For grocers, launching programs that make it easier for shoppers to improve their health is a cost-effective way to lean into that trend, he said.

“[Health and wellness] is adjacent to their brand,” he said. “Grocers sell grocery products so the services that they can offer revolve around the sale of food and beverage and other grocery items.”

Meijer’s virtual coaching sessions cost $89 for the initial appointment and $49 for follow-up sessions. The sessions include meal planning, weight management and behavioral change support. It is also offering a free 15-minute session with a dietitian for customers who want to learn more about the program before committing.

Many of these programs are also structured like subscription services, which allow grocers to drive valuable recurring revenue. Much like Meijer, Hy-Vee launched a health and wellness program in May, called Healthy You — a subscription program worth $99 per month where members could get health screenings, nutrition counseling and fitness videos. Hy-Vee’s Smart Benefits program appears to be a continuation of its health and wellness focus. The Smart Benefits program is offered to participating Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and employer benefits programs, among other organizations.

Giant, on the other hand, is targeting businesses for its wellness program. Local organizations can customize the program based on the needs of their respective teams.

“Through this new program, we make managing health easier for our customers,” Aaron Wiese, president of Hy-Vee, said in a press release. “As a trusted grocer and a health care provider, we are uniquely positioned to reach and engage with individuals in the Midwest and beyond as we help support them in their health journey.”

Brad Jashinsky, director analyst at Gartner, said that these health and wellness programs can be a way for brands to highlight the assortment they have in stores. By highlighting their healthy product offering, he said that grocers could win over shoppers that have traditionally shopped at stores that specifically focus on wellness.

“A lot of these programs highlight the depth and breadth of food options that grocery stores offer,” Jashinsky said. “It’s a unique way for grocery stores to highlight their diverse offerings.”

While more consumers are focusing on health, Jashinsky said that affordability remains a priority for many. “Although inflation has gone down, the prices are still highly inflated,” he said. “There are a lot of consumers where their biggest concern, especially now, has been prices and affordability.”

Rachel Dalton, head of retail insights at Kantar, expects grocery stores to continue adding healthier product options on shelves. Already, major retailers have been inking partnerships with better-for-you CPG brands in recent years, she said. For example, Target on Wednesday announced that it was adding over 1,000 wellness-related products to support customers’ health, including items from brands like hydration brand Liquid I.V. and vitamin brand O Positiv.

“You’ll start seeing the assortments in grocery stores continue to change and shift towards more healthy options,” she said. “Brands are on that bandwagon. There’s a lot of research and innovation happening in that space too. So you’ll see more of these partnerships develop over time between brands and retailers.”