Supermarkets Strive for Healthy Profits from Healthy Food
As safety became a major concern during the pandemic, social distancing markers, customer restrictions, masks and plexiglass barriers have appeared in supermarkets. Lines stretched along the sidewalks like the crowds at Studio 54 in its heyday. But the second trend toward safety is taking hold more quietly on supermarket shelves. As more consumers seek to eat healthy, not just healthy foods, supermarkets are stepping up testing programs both online and in stores targeting consumers looking for healthy choices.
Okay, not-so-healthy foods are still overflowing with supermarket shelves that average about 40,000 items. Sweet and savory snacks and our cravings have not gone away. But among consumers, there is an increasing focus on nutrition, health and data, and stores are responding to this. In addition to saturating our sweet tooth, consumers are looking for keto, gluten-free, sugar-free, peanut-free, fair trade and other foods, and stores are trying to keep up. Retailers use health to gain favor, satisfy consumers’ nutritional and information needs, gain loyalty, and increase sales.
Of course, this is happening against the backdrop of big brands making and selling treats that are, well, maybe tastier than healthy. And sellers of processed foods, high in sugar, salt, and fat, pay for the best spots, like eye-level shelves and end caps. However, some supermarkets lend a helping hand to healthy food. Stores do not necessarily create demand for healthy food, but they can meet existing demand – and even try to raise it a little.
Stores across the country are testing healthy payment options such as express routes for healthy foods that encourage healthy eating, roll out improved signage and lighting for healthy choices, and offer healthy food samples and more nutritional information. Raley’s supermarkets, with 126 stores in West Sacramento, California, have redesigned their layout to provide a better grain section for lower sugar products, ditch sodas at the checkout counters and offer free fruit to children. They can be details, but they can add up to something more.
While supermarkets are not necessarily health-conscious, they serve a significant customer base. According to LabelInsight, which provides food information, the number of US consumers shopping based on personal needs conditions such as diet, allergies, and health-related health preferences has skyrocketed. According to LabelInsight, nearly 200 million Americans follow health and wellness programs, and 180 million have food allergies that affect shopping. Where demographics are large, dollars can also be significant.