FMI, GMDC prep for joint health and wellness event

The Food Marketing Institute and the Global Market Development Center have been setting the stage for their first combined conference focused on health, beauty and wellness. DSN dialed in Cathy Polley, VP health and wellness at FMI and executive director of the FMI Foundation; Dave McConnell, president and CEO of GMDC; and Bill Anderson, chairman of GMDC and group VP drug store, beauty, GM, floral and services for H-E-B for some insights around the value behind the Health & Wellness @Retail 2013 event.

 DSN: What are the consumer market forces that will help to make this joint conference a success?

Dave Mcconnell, GMDC: The board and staff leaderships of FMI and GMDC felt that as consumers move more aggressively toward a self-managed approach to the health-and-wellness needs of themselves and their families, our two individual conferences would benefit by bringing all elements of the retail-based health-and-wellness continuum to one location. In essence, this partnership was created to leverage collaboration between FMI’s members in the fields of nutrition, diet, center store and pharmacy with GMDC’s subject matter experts in the areas of OTC, beauty and wellness from a nonfoods perspective.

Bill Anderson, GMDC: GMDC’s intent at this event is to connect our wholesaler, retailer, supplier and service provider members with FMI members in these disciplines to share information and best practices, as well as product and shopper insights on how retailers can provide a total shopping experience for today’s sophisticated shopper.


Cathy Polley, FMI: Our members have recognized the need to help customers find “what they need to know, when they need to know it” as it applies to the diverse abundance of health, wellness and nutrition offerings available in today’s supermarket. With America’s grocery shoppers becoming increasingly health-and-wellness savvy, supermarkets are uniquely positioned to help customers navigate the oft-complicated terrain where their food, nutrition, medication and beauty needs all intersect. By co-locating our conferences, we’re bringing together executives responsible for all areas of health, beauty and wellness in one location. It’s been a terrific partnership.

DSN: What is the pre-show buzz?

Polley: Health and wellness continues to be top of mind for the majority of Americans, and in our information-hungry society, consumers are getting much more sophisticated in the health and nutrition questions they are asking and in what they are expecting of retailers. Our retailers know this and are gladly responding to the challenge. Gatherings such as this provide retailers the opportunity to take home actionable strategies and baskets of new ideas to help them deliver effective, relevant and efficient health-and-wellness services in their stores. No other retail segment has so many resources at their disposal to steward health-and-wellness initiatives.

This year we’ll also honor our inaugural Gold Plate Award winners at the Chairman’s Dinner on Friday night. The Gold Plate Award honors the most innovative family meal programs.

McConnell: Very positive … members from both associations are really excited about the opportunity to co-locate the two events and expand business opportunities for both sides of the trading partnership by bringing more of the right players to one meeting venue.

DSN: What are the opportunities to be realized out of GMDC and FMI’s co-located conference this year?

Polley: FMI will kick off our meeting with exciting and informative education sessions, such as a consumer perspective panel [featuring] Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, and “Blue Zones” author Dan Buettner. These, as are all of our sessions, are specifically geared toward providing our members with information they can take home to create or enhance their health-and-wellness programs. Consumer and industry panels will provide insight into what today’s health-minded shopper is looking for and how retailers are responding. Our keynotes will have attendees thinking about new approaches to the delivery of health-and-wellness services and — always a hit with conference participants — Thursday afternoon’s business exchange appointments might just help them find the perfect partner to bring these new approaches to life.

McConnell: The synergies of putting together the two association’s attendees allows more collaboration between wholesale, retail and supplier disciplines that rarely come together at one event or even in their own companies. For example, we anticipate that executives from the same wholesale/retail companies attending the two separate events will interact at levels they don’t even achieve in their own home offices, where too often silos of responsibility create unintended barriers to collaboration.

DSN: What are the key programming elements enabling those opportunities for attendees?

Anderson: Both associations are encouraging their attendees to participate in one another’s business and social programs. Also, both associations are encouraging the participation of their member companies in the senior executive conference, or SEC, suite-based, executive-level meetings that will be held on Friday and Saturday. In that environment, we’ll see our GMDC HBW wholesale/retail executives attending SEC meetings with their own company’s counterparts in pharmacy, nutrition and wellness to meet with GMDC’s HBW supplier member companies. The collaboration of these subject matter experts interacting together to explore opportunities with our supplier members is pretty exciting for all of us. The opportunity now exists to develop strategies and implementation against the entire footprint of the store, and not just on a per department basis.

Polley: FMI and GMDC attendees will begin gathering jointly on Thursday evening for a networking reception. Over the next two days, all attendees will have the opportunity to participate in joint Strategic Exchange Appointments and our Chairman’s Dinner.

McConnell: We are transitioning our GMDC/FMI commitment to collaboration into our social events as our Friday joint Evening with the Chefs dinner will feature a keynote address on the topic of health and wellness strategy by Craig Boyan, president and COO of H-E-B. Boyan’s remarks will be followed by a family-style healthy Italian meal prepared by renowned celebrity chef Fabio Viviani.

DSN: What role can supermarket pharmacy play under the Affordable Care Act?

Polley: Pharmacists are among the most accessible of all healthcare providers. This is especially true in the supermarket, where the average American shops 2.2 times per week. As trusted healthcare professionals, they offer an array of health-and-wellness services, including medication therapy management, immunizations and health screenings. They also work with dieticians to help shoppers sort through health and nutrition information so they can make informed food choices that complement their prescribed medications. Supermarket pharmacists are well-qualified to play a key role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Shoppers want to improve their health, want convenient access to healthcare services and want help making complex decisions. Supermarket pharmacists and dieticians can meet these needs by providing information and classes on healthy eating and living, and providing access to healthcare services like flu shots, in-store clinics and kiosks.  

McConnell:  Health reform is in the wheelhouse of supermarkets, and especially their pharmacies — as supermarkets with the right vision connect the nonfood and better-for-you food sides of consumer health. Once the Affordable Care Act goes live in January, self care will ramp up. In this environment, pharmacy will play a dual role — one to benefit consumers seeking their advice, and another to be so credible and helpful to patients that they believe in the supermarket as a health destination, and decide to fill their nonfood and food wellness needs there.

GMDC is excited to be launching a new whitepaper later this year, "The Changing Healthcare Scene @ Retail," which covers this topic in much more detail, along with providing retailers and their supplier partners practical ways to serve their customers better and grow their sales.

DSN: How is GMDC*Connect being deployed at the Conference?

McConnell: While we are still offering the use of telepresence technology within the SEC suite-based meetings, our real focus at the HBW Conference is on showcasing where we are headed with the full launch of our GMDC*Connect telepresence network. GMDC*Connect is about more than just enhancing connectivity at our events, and we see its greatest potential in putting this technology on the desktops of all of our members to enhance day-to-day business operations.

At the HBW Conference, we’ll be showcasing the technology in a couple of ways. First, at our Saturday luncheon, Bill Anderson and I will conduct a couple of live demos using our GMDC*Connect network. Secondly, we’ll be providing training sessions at our new Innovation Station throughout the duration of the conference on how GMDC*Connect allows members to utilize not just traditional video conferencing vehicles, such as laptops, but also such mobile devices as smart phones and tablets. We think of it in terms of a BYOD demo center … ‘bring your own device,’ and we’ll show you how we can make it a more powerful business tool.

DSN: What does telepresence functionality mean for attendees?

Anderson: Beyond enhancing the experience of the SEC meetings by being able to bring subject matter experts into these meetings from various endpoints outside the conference venue, the real upside for attendees is being exposed to what will be a powerful network to use in their business lives 365 days a year. The GMDC*Connect Telepresence network offers them access to virtual meetings with either their trade partners or their internal partners within their own companies in an on-demand environment … the availability of anytime/anywhere high quality connectivity via video conferencing rooms, laptops, and mobile devices is the real game changer for GMDC and its members.

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