EXPERT COLUMN: Health and Wellness Tech


Technology has become a major component of consumer health and wellness. We use fitness trackers -- like Fitbit, Jawbone’s UP and Nike’s FuelBand -- to track data such as movement and sleep patterns, heart rate, and estimated calories burned, all of which can be uploaded to a PC or phone and reviewed.

There are myriad mobile apps that track how much one eats along with their exercise history, and they tell us the ingredients and nutrition information of many types of food. We tend to be fascinated by data and statistics; even more so when the data is personal. But as with all analysis, garbage in equals garbage out, and getting the data into these programs tends to take a lot of effort.

For food retailers, the growing interest in health and wellness spells opportunity. Responding to that need is neither easy nor inexpensive, but a response is required if you are to take advantage of this demand for consumer-related health information.

For retailers looking to offer new technology ideas to their customers, there are two primary areas to focus on: Mobile and the shelf edge. Using the shelf edge and offering a way to connect that to a mobile app (either a popular existing app or a proprietary one owned by the retailer) is a reactively quick way to deliver information to health-minded shoppers without spending enormous resources. The use of barcodes, QR codes, or other mobile-friendly tactics on shelf edge materials is a great place to start.

In recent years, shoppers have expressed a much greater interest in getting health and wellness information at the shelf while in the store. This has been driven in no small part by the availability of additional information when shopping online. While all food products are required to carry an ingredient list and the Nutrition Fact Panel (NFP), shoppers often seek additional information in making their purchase decisions.

At the shelf

Shelf-edge wellness programs driven by state-of-the-art database technology are becoming increasingly prevalent. Fed by deep wells of nutritional data on thousands of products and updated constantly, such a program uses the shelf price label as a way to communicate specific qualities relevant to the product to help shoppers find what they want. Attributes like “low salt” or “good source of calcium” are depicted right on the label for easy comparison.

A shelf-edge wellness program should be customized down to the store level to support a retailer’s branding. Additionally, retailers with strong dietitian programs can tie in the shelf-edge technology in a way that the overall health and wellness program is easy for shoppers to use.

No matter what direction a retailer decides is best for implementing its health and wellness strategy, a key consideration is whether its internal IT department has the necessary resources and tools to develop, manage and execute an effective health and wellness program. Ultimately, the bottom line is to make sure to keep the focus on shopper benefits, and keep the technology hidden where possible so it’s seamless and simple.

Jeff Weidauer is VP of marketing and strategy for Vestcom International Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based provider of integrated shopper marketing solutions. He can be reached at [email protected], or visit

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds