Wellness is at the grocery store, the vast majority of U.S. health citizens say. 8 in 10 U.S. shoppers are concerned about the nutritional content in the food they eat.

As grocery shoppers look for more fresh and less processed foods, grocery stores are seen as trusted allies for meeting wellness needs. Grocers are coupling the growth of more healthy packaged foods in the middle of the store with more fresh and prepared food options that consumers see as healthier than restaurant meals, according to U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 from FMI (the Food Marketing Institute) and Hartman Group.

While “my primary” food store falls below trust in wellness supported by “my family,” doctors, “my friends,” farmers, and health clubs, my personal grocer rank higher as an ally for wellness than health insurers, drug stores, restaurants, media, food manufacturers, and the many celebrity chefs on food TV shows — along with government, entertainment, and fast food — lowest of the wellness-ally food chain (pun intended).

What’s important to note in the first bar chart is the red-lines, which consumers believe are industry segments that “work against me” for wellness. Here it’s where fast food, entertainment, government, food manufacturers, and health plans rank “higher,” meaning they are perceived as militating against consumers’ personal wellness strategies.

Consumers who seek wellness at the grocery store look for product claims to support health missions: most frequent claims sought are for low sugar, low sodium, no artificial ingredients, whole gain, no trans fats, high fiber, no preservatives, no added hormones, natural, and non-GMO. Low calorie and no/low-fat are lower down the scale of importance.

“Transparency is the currency of trust in the digital age,” FMI and Hartman Group recognize. And transparency is important for health-oriented grocery shoppers, for whom finding out what’s in products, where they’re sourced, and how they’re made play intimately into wellness values. People seeking healthy lifestyles look to grocers for inspiration to inform and support healthy living. Key “food culture” factors for these shoppers are:

  • Avoiding negative ingredients
  • Seeking positive nutrition
  • Favoring minimal processing, and
  • Allying with the store in wellness.

An emerging trend in food stores is the presence of a “grocerant:” that is, a restaurant located in the grocery store. Eating in grocery stores has gained more traction among consumers while restaurant sales have been struggling. More grocery stores are also preparing ready-to-eat items like rotisserie chickens, salads, and sushi to provide families greater convenience while enabling them to eat-at-home, which is perceived as a more healthy option than eating out. Two in three U.S. households with kids bought prepared meal items at least sometimes, according to the FMI/Hartman Group survey.

This study was conducted among 2,145 U.S. primary shoppers age 18 and over in February 2017.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  This research was published within days of the news that Amazon would purchase Whole Foods. Virtually every vertical market analyst has opined on how the Amazon/Whole Foods combination would impact their sector: for example,

Health and wellness are also a part of this deal’s halo effect. I wrote about Amazon’s foray into prescription drugs and the pharmacy market just two weeks ago here in Health Populi. Add food and storefronts into the mix, and you have further building blocks for retail pharmacy storefronts on Main Streets throughout the U.S. You also have an approach to food-as-medicine in local stores, which can be staffed by nutritionists and health coaches on the ground for people who seek face-to-face high-touch advice.

Of course, Amazon’s core competence is ecommerce, so these services can also, inevitably, be deployed through mobile apps and web-based services.

Underneath all of this is data. As food data can mash up with pharmacy data and consumer-generated data through wearable tech and the Internet-of-Things at home and in the car, Amazon will play a growing role well beyond the stuff we buy. They’ll be an integral part of our health and wellness.

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