Supermarket Wellness Watch: 5 Key Health Trends For 2017

A new year typically leads food retailers to mull what’s ahead. No one wants to be blindsided by new forces. However, the bigger risk involves underestimating how existing trends will grow in importance. Here’s a look at five developments that will mean more in 2017. 
1. Consumers Demand ‘See-Through’ Products
Consumers have been embracing transparency and traceability, and it’s time to recognize these are no longer disruptive forces. They are now mainstream. In fact, they have become the talk of traditional buyer-seller meetings and trade events, and the momentum will continue. “Transparency, social responsibility and traceability will continue to grow in importance in consumer shopping behavior,” said Mary Kay O’Connor, vice-president of education at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association. She made those comments in a Food Business News piece about the association’s annual research report, “What’s In Store 2017.” Food retailers that excel in transparency and traceability will gain differentiation strategies to set them apart in this year’s highly competitive battle among retail channels, she added.
2. Store Perimeter Rides Health Wave
The supermarket ‘perimeter’ is already seen by consumers as the healthiest part of the store, because it’s filled with fresh foods. Customers will look to this part of the store even more for healthy options in 2017. This is especially relevant for the prepared foods section because of its growing importance to shopper convenience. In a piece about perimeter trends, ECRM, an industry solutions provider, used the tagline “Quick and Easy, But Healthy” to describe the situation. The piece quotes one attendee at an ECRM event saying consumers “are interested in grab-and-go items that are natural or organic, or that have cleaner ingredients.” It also said shoppers are  “increasingly turning to the perimeter for healthier snacking options between regular meals.”
3. Waste Leaves Bad Taste
The environmental and economic costs of food waste are becoming more apparent both to shoppers and the food industry.  Retailers and manufacturers have made important gains in reducing waste, but even more needs to be done. Whole Foods, in a recent trends piece, spotlighted innovative ways manufacturers are repurposing materials. Whole Foods called this ‘Products from Byproducts.’
“Whether it’s leftover whey from strained Greek yogurt or spent grains from beer, food producers are finding innovative – and delicious – ways to give byproducts new life,” the retailer said. Whole Foods cited specific examples of food companies doing a good job in this regard, making it likely other brands will follow in these footsteps. 
4- One-Stop Wellness Advances
Food retailers have worked hard to raise the profile of healthy options across their stores. One of the most important priorities is to “integrate health and wellness” across the retail operation, according to a report by Acosta.  The report urged retailers to “think holistically about health and wellness,” and “offer a variety of natural and organic options, including ready to eat.” It also recommended that retailers “gain more trips and longer trips with integrated pharmacy, dietitian and health services.” Progressive retailers have jumped on this trend, and there are signs it’s working and will advance this year.  
5- Demands Fuel Industry Collaboration 
As consumers demand improved health solutions, they have big expectations from industry leaders, who need to work together more closely to meet these needs. Consider the title of a recent article by Global Market Development Center: “Consumers Hold Retailers Accountable For Their Health and Wellness Journeys.” The article outlines a new GMDC whitepaper that emphasizes the importance of industry collaboration in meeting consumer health needs. 
That’s a good place to close this piece about top health trends for 2017. Retailers and manufacturers have little control over changing consumer demands and behaviors. But they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how to respond. The word collaboration has described a lot of food retail industry initiatives recently, and the wellness segment will continue to be a big part of that. Trading partners are far better off collaborating on best solutions than going it alone. 


David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker who was the longtime chief editor and content leader of Supermarket News. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries.

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