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How Grocers Can Lead On Nutrition

Image of fruits and vegetables inside a clear capsule for food as medicine

Nutrition is a space that grocers can own, by knowing how to guide consumers toward food solutions for any health need.

A recent webinar hosted by the National Grocers Association and the NGA Foundation explained what “food as medicine” means and explored what grocery retailers need to know to be an active part of the health conversation, from labeling and health claims, to medically prescribed meals, to meal kits, recipe cards and cooking classes designed to address specific nutritional demands.

Jessica Talbot, health and nutrition manager at Minnesota-based retailer Coborn’s Inc., shared how her company is having nutrition conversations with its customers, and NGA VP of Government Relations Stephanie Johnson offered details about healthy benefit cards, nutrition incentive programs and how NGA is leading the way on nutrition policy.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

What is “food as medicine?” Sometimes referred to as “food is medicine,” it’s a philosophy where food and nutrition aids individuals through interventions that support health and wellness. It can encompass a broad range of approaches that promote optimal health with nutritious food to prevent, manage or treat specific conditions.

Population-level healthy food policies and programs include nutrition security programs, such as SNAP or WIC; produce prescription programs, and medically tailored groceries or meals, coupled with nutrition counseling and education.

“Health and well-being” can positively impact sales and profits. About half of all American adults have at least one preventable chronic disease that may be related to poor-quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. Lower food security is associated with a higher probability of chronic disease.

Food as Medicine touches grocery on multiple levels, including public programs such as SNAP, WIC, nutrition incentives, produce prescriptions and Medicaid; and private initiatives such as healthy benefit cards, retail dietitians, nutrition education and counseling.

NGA’s nutrition policy advocacy includes Farm Bill priorities, child nutrition reauthorization, protecting SNAP Choice, fruit and vegetable incentives, and expansion of healthy benefit cards. Additionally, the NGA Foundation GusNIP Technical Assistance Center help grantees design programs to work for participants and food retailer sites.

Why leverage registered dietitians in retail? RDs are credentialed healthcare professionals who specialize in nutrition and diets to meet health needs. They have the education, knowledge and experience to translate nutrition science into practical solutions to achieve health goals. At Coborn’s, current initiatives include a shelf tag program to drive shoppers toward nutrient-dense food choices; nutrition communications, including recipes and science-based nutrition information; and kids programming that helps build lifelong healthy eating habits.

RDs can drive sales. In Coborn’s Registered Dietitian Team Shopper Marketing Program, 90% of sponsored promotions have seen a positive sales impact. Omnichannel campaigns use health and nutrition messaging to drive sales and increase brand awareness. Dietitian team social media posts experience 300-760% higher reach.

Pair health and nutrition communications with merchandising opportunities, including recipe inspiration endcaps, in-store signage with displays, and online messaging with in-store TPRs and ad pricing. Future goals to continue driving Food as Medicine at Coborn’s include product development in deli, meat, and private label; integration with the rewards programs; continued growth with new banners; further integrate dietitian team programming with the in-store and online shopping experience; and work with community healthcare partners.

For more exclusive insights, view a recording of the complete webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1553320098840850091.

[Related: NGA Urges CMS To Address Disparities With Healthy Benefit Cards]

About the author

Jim Dudlicek

Director, Communications and External Affairs at NGA

Jim Dudlicek is Managing Editor and Content Strategist at NGA. The National Grocers Association is the trade association representing the U.S. independent community supermarket industry. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers located in every congressional district across the country, as well as state grocers’ associations, manufacturers and service suppliers.

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