A Great Challenges Online Event: Shopping for Health

Note:  This online event, originally scheduled for September 19th at 11 am ET, has been postponed.  We will announce the new day and time here and via #GreatChallenges.

“Let food by thy medicine,” Hippocrates once said, and thousands of years later, grocery stores are apparently embracing his philosophy.

In a new trend for the industry, a majority of food stores who responded are offering wellness (56%), cooking (46%) or weight management classes (28%) according to the Shopping for Health 2013 survey, conducted by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and published by Prevention magazine.

The survey covered thirty-nine FMI member companies, representing thousands of grocery stores nationwide, and is the 21st in a series of annual reports on America’s food shoppers.

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Retailers are offering other benefits like dietitian tips, store tours that focus on health eating (81%) and events that promote immunizations and health screenings.

The rub: Though stores are beginning to offer health services, shoppers haven’t really caught on. The survey shows two-thirds of shoppers said they have not seen any health related information or classes offered in the supermarket.

“It suggests that while retailers are doing all these great things for their customers, consumers aren’t looking in the aisles.  Aside from grabbing them and taking them into a class, how do we interact with them?  How do we make it exciting?” says Susan Borra, RD, FMI’s senior vice president of communications and strategic planning.

Other surprises were shopper perceptions of their family’s health and food preparation. Ten percent of shoppers with children 6 to 18 think of their children as overweight, but some 33 percent of those aged 6 to 19 are overweight or obese, according to the CDC.

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“There’s a lot of issues with obesity that we’ve been seeing year over year, and we have 21 years of data in this report,” Borra says.

On the plus side, almost 90 percent of stores surveyed provided healthy recipes, and more than half of the respondents had tried one.  And confusion about what’s actually healthy – and what’s not – has lessened.

“For the first time in a long time consumers are really feeling like they are making improvements in their lives. They feel like they’re going somewhere on this path to health,” Borra says.

What’s behind the decisions and perceptions each shopper makes when he or she enters a food store?  How do they try to achieve healthy eating, and how have their attitudes towards it changed?  How can businesses acquire a competitive edge in health and wellness in a responsible way?

To discuss these and other issues around shopping for health, join TEDMED’s Great Challenges Google Hangout; we’ll announce the time and date soon. Susan Borra, as our guest, will examine more key findings from the survey*. Follow FMI on Twitter @FMI_ORG.

Sally Squires, Senior Vice President and Director of Health and Wellness at Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick, will moderate the conversation. Squires is a nationally syndicated columnist, web chat host, Lean Plate Club creator, and health/nutrition writer.  Follow Sally on Twitter @sallysquires.

*A free download of the 2013 Shopping for Health report will be made available to participants following the event.