Research finds consumer interest drives opportunity for Food as Medicine in grocery stores.
As supermarkets evolve as a destination for health and well-being, FMI — The Food Industry Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation have released "The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail," a report that outlines business opportunities for food retailers to embrace the concept of “Food as Medicine.”
Over the past year, half of food retailers significantly or moderately increased their health and well-being programs as the COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on the importance of overall wellness.
Even if they are not specifically referring to them as Food as Medicine efforts, FMI’s latest report found that food retailers are prioritizing programs for both customers and employees that align with the definition of Food as Medicine. FMI supports the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics science-based definition of Food as Medicine, which states:
Food as Medicine is a philosophy where food and nutrition aids individuals through interventions that support health and wellness. Focus areas include: food as preventative medicine to encourage health and well-being; food as medicine in disease management and treatment; food as medicine to improve nutrition security; and food as medicine to promote food safety. Food as medicine is a reaffirmation that food and nutrition play a role in sustaining health, preventing disease, and as a therapy for those with conditions or in situations responsive to changes in their diet.
“At a time of growing consumer interest in enhancing their health and well-being through food, it is appropriate to talk about the role of food in the context of medicine, as food can help prevent disease and promote health, manage chronic conditions, improve nutrition security and simply nourish,” said Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, director of health and well-being for FMI.
The report highlights five program models that food retailers could use to support specific initiatives and collect and report metrics to stakeholders. The combination of program models demonstrates improved results, including positive health outcomes and return on investment for retail operations. Recommendations also note the importance of establishing credible messages and programs with an emphasis on connecting with grocery shoppers through science-based, preventative and universal communications.
“Food retailers are established as trusted partners in a customer’s shopping journey, providing multiple touch points and interactions with customers — from in-store to online,” said Allison Yoder, MA, RDN, LD, the Academy Foundation’s Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development fellow. “Registered dietitian nutritionists can help guide retailers on how to meet the nutritional needs of their customers. As the food and nutrition experts, RDNs understand the important role that nutrition plays in overall health.”
The Foundation’s Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development Fellowship program will release a resource soon to help registered dietitian nutritionists and food retailers assess their Food as Medicine initiatives.
The vital role food plays in overall health is even being recognized by health coverage providers. To help improve nutrition and food insecurity, Clover Health added groceries to its benefits on Aug. 1. Eligible Clover Health members who meet certain criteria, including underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable, will qualify to receive up to $125 in a quarterly stipend that can be used at participating retailers to purchase food, non-alcoholic beverages and other OTC items like vitamins and ibuprofen.
Arlington, Va.-based FMI works with and on behalf of the entire industry to advance a safer, healthier and more efficient consumer food supply chain. FMI brings together a wide range of members across the value chain — from retailers that sell to consumers, to producers that supply food and other products, as well as the wide variety of companies providing critical services — to amplify the collective work of the industry. Also available from FMI is its Power of Health and Well-Being report that examines emerging consumer health and well-being trends and sets the stage for future innovation.