By: Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, Director, Health & Well-being, FMI
This year’s Retailer Contributions to Health and Well-being report tells the story behind the dramatic increase in food retail health and well-being initiatives over the past two years. In parallel, I can tell my own story as I witnessed firsthand the dramatic growth in programs and enhanced focus on health and well-being, employee wellness, multi-channel outreach, pharmacy services and community engagement. With the release of this report, I cannot help but reflect on how true the key findings are as I flashback to the beginning of the pandemic when I was immersed in the food retail world as a registered dietitian working in a supermarket, working to help customers and employees make the connection between food and health to feel better and live stronger.
In the report, half of food retailer respondents said their company’s health and well-being programs and activities increased significantly or moderately since 2019 and acknowledged that the pandemic was a major disruptor in health and well-being activities, which included enhanced cleaning and sanitation measures, expanded engagement with omnichannel consumer connections, and dedicated efforts around education, health concerns and COVID-19 vaccinations. Retailers have, and always will, prioritize the needs of their customers and will make necessary adjustments to meet those needs.
As a retail dietitian, my scope of work focused on employee and consumer health messaging. That focus pivoted quickly from structured in-person meetings and in-store outreach to daily messaging about taking care of yourself as an essential worker, hand washing, basic nourishment, hydration and supporting others around you. The Retailer Contributions to Health & Well-being 2021 report shows that retailers across the country also shifted their focus to spotlight nutrition and overall health to include self-care, preventive care and emotional care.
Also reflected in this report, healthy eating priorities shifted with an increased focus on easy meal solutions, cooking at home, convenience, budget constraints, comfort and immune support. Helping customers and employees with altered schedules and daily routines was top of mind, and dietitian-driven tips revolved around stocking up for more lunches and snacks at home, solutions for more family meals and reliance on pantry items (frozen and canned ingredients).
I literally watched as the first plexi-glass went up around the pharmacy counter (and eventually the checkout lanes) and I watched pharmacists hand carry prescriptions out of the store to confirm information through car windshields in the parking lot. Satisfying customer needs made pharmacy an even more essential and trusted resource during the pandemic, particularly when COVID-19 vaccinations rolled out.
At the same time, rapid changes were made to enhance the digital space to meet consumers on company websites, apps and social media to provide up-to-date information and resources. Customers changed the way they were interacting and how they were shopping, but an underlying sense of trust and reliance on the grocery store to meet family needs rose to the forefront. From the report, we learn that retail executives believe future brand loyalty and business growth opportunities are linked to the continued expansion of health and well-being efforts.
Thank you to all of the retailers who truly contribute to health and well-being every day, and to all of the supermarket heroes who work so hard to deliver good food and thoughtful care in the communities you serve. This report is a direct reflection of the work you have been doing, and the opportunities that lie ahead!