imageThe registered dietitian is an in-demand labor resource for grocery stores around the U.S.

Advertising Age covered the phenomenon of the growing clout of dietitians in food chains (April 14, 2013).

Let’s dig further into this phenomenon through the Health Populi lens on healthcareDIY and peoples’ ability to bend their personal health care cost curves. imageStores such as Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, Safeway and Wegmans are morphing into wellness destinations, with pharmacies and natural food aisles taking up valuable square footage to meet consumers’ growing demands for healthy choices.

Some stores are formalizing their approach to food = health by formulating a labeling strategy to nudge people toward healthy options. The Walmart-Humana Vitality alliance for Great 4 You products and Hy-Vee’s adoption of NuVal product labels signify a move toward grocers’ more descriptive labeling for health beyond the USDA’s ubiquitous nutrition label.

imageAd Age points out that retail food stores are fast-adding dietitians to their staffs, traditionally at the headquarters (corporate-wide) level. Increasingly, these trained nutritionists are being deployed in the retail stores to interact with food shoppers to disseminate advice and counsel for both wellness and trustworthy medical advice going beyond gluten-free and organic recommendations.

More consumers are project-managing their chronic conditions outside of the doctor’s office, and good food choices can play a huge role in wellness for noncommunicable diseases — notably heart disease (say, hyperlipidemia) and diabetes, and other life-style amenable conditions like Crohn’s Disease and diverticulitis

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The growth of food items on store shelves at retail pharmacy chains is an important factor to note in this morphing marketplace of food = health

“Today we’re a supermarket company,” Ad Age quotes Steve Burd, CEO of Safeway, the food chain. “I think in ten years’ time, we’ll be thought of more of  a wellness company selling food.”

Burd’s forecast will be true beyond Safeway: grocers will morph toward pharmacy, pharmacies toward wellness destinations, and the notion of “retail health” will continue to expand. Furthermore, as Walgreens moves pharmacists into the store aisles for high-touch personal counseling with clients, so, too, with other allied health professionals — such as nutritionists, physical therapists, and diabetes educators — go direct-to-consumer in retail settings.