PG Web Extra: Healthy Tech

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PG Web Extra: Healthy Tech

By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ - 02/24/2016

As grocery stores and manufacturers strive to become health-and-wellness guides, they will increasing adopt new technology to provide more services to customers.

Sue Borra, RD, SVP, communications and strategic planning at Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has already seen evidence of this. “We’re … witnessing some new innovations in the space – specifically with regard to telemedicine,” she says. “These strategic investments in both talent and technology will help to share the health care landscape.”

Amy Lotker, owner/EVP of sales and marketing at Delray Beach, Fla.-based Better For You Foods LLC, concurs. “Because we’re living in the still-emerging ‘communications age,’ it seems as though manufacturers and retailers will both move toward internet-based strategies for educating consumers in-store,” she predicts. “Something along the lines of NFC [near-field communication] that enables health preferences to be read from a consumer’s mobile phone signal, and steer them toward the products that satisfy their needs, seems like the type of technology-based health initiative that could reasonably come into play in the very near future. There’s always more that we can do to help proactively educate consumers about health and nutrition.”

Technology will also facilitate the growing trend toward personalization.” As Natalie Menza, MS, RD, manager of health and wellness at Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp., a co-op whose retailer members operate ShopRite stores in the Northeast, points out, “We understand no two customer’s needs are alike, so at ShopRite we continue to grow and support programs and initiatives that aim to personalize the health-and-wellness experience for each customer.”

“There is nothing more personal than a customer’s health,” asserts Karen Buch, RDN, LDN, founder of and principal consultant at Nutrition Connections LLC and a member of Nutrition Advisory Board of the Washington, D.C.-based National Turkey Federation, adding: “I think there will be greater opportunities in the future to address consumer health concerns in a more personalized way. Retailers will be able to fuse the nutritional expertise of retail dietitian teams with advances in technology, including making better use of shopper data collected through loyalty cards.”

Salud y Belleza

In the meantime, digital efforts are rapidly gaining momentum. Carl Jorgensen, director, global consumer strategy – wellness at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon Worldwide, stresses the importance of “out-of-store promotions utilizing social media and digital offers,” while Trish James, VP of Orlando, Fla.-based Produce for Kids, advises suppliers to “back up their product with a solid social media presence in the healthy-eating space,” and Jaime Schwartz Cohen, MS, RD, director of nutrition at New York-based public relations and marketing agency Ketchum, points out, “Online shopping can also be considered part [of being a health-and-wellness destination], as grocers can position themselves as giving consumers more time back in their day to live a healthy lifestyle, rather than shopping for one.”

One notable recent example is that of San Jose, Calif.-based Hispanic grocery chain Mi Pueblo, which in February launched Salud y Belleza (Health & Beauty), a healthy-living community program for shoppers and employees. Under the program, nutrition expert Lisa Antillón is sharing healthy recipes, tips and advice via Mi Pueblo’s website and social media channels, as well as through the “Asi es Mi Pueblo” radio show and in-store health workshops.

“Our goal is to improve the health and wellness of Bay Area residents by providing them the necessary tools and resources to care for their family and loved ones,” said Mi Pueblo President and CEO Javier Ramirez at the time of the rollout. “Mi Pueblo’s priority is to serve the community and create a positive impact on our customers’ lives.”

According to the company, it’s the first Hispanic supermarket chain to launch a health-focused program in Northern California. Alarmed by data from the Centers for Disease Control showing that Hispanics are 1.2 times more likely to suffer from obesity and other health-related problems, and that heart disease and diabetes are two of the leading causes of death in the community, Mi Pueblo developed Salud y Belleza to boost awareness among Hispanics and offer healthier, accessible options.

For more about driving health in-store, visit PG's March issue