Michelle Obama takes on food policy
With her organic vegetable garden at the White House producing its first crop, the first lady has now set her sights on food policy by making speeches advocating healthy eating everywhere from elementary schools to the Department of Health and Human Services. Obama and her team are also developing a new set of national food and health initiatives such as including more fresh foods in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition programs, reducing diet-related disease, supporting local and smaller food producers, and encouraging urban and community gardening.
What’s next: The U.S. House and Senate are considering bills designed to increase food safety, and the Food and Drug Administration is stepping up food facility inspection efforts.
What this means for retail: You’ll see customers increasingly concerned about food safety standards. Give your customers helpful signage, educational literature, knowledgeable staff and a quick way—email blasts, Twitter—to hear about recalls and contamination alerts. With the first lady’s emphasis on encouraging youngsters to change their eating habits and avoid junk food, retailers could also see healthy snacks growing in popularity.
Tesco advances mobile technology
Shoppers who download British-based supermarket chain Tesco’s free new “Finder” application will be able to locate an item in a Tesco store by shelf, aisle and which side it is on. The iPhone app also uses GPS technology to help find nearby Tesco stores.
What’s next: Tesco joins a growing group of retailers—Target, Amazon, even Minnesota’s giant Mall of America—that are developing mobile phone apps as shopping aids. Maine-based supermarket chain Hannaford Bros. also launched an online interactive map showing New England vendor locations.
What this means for retail: Websites and cell phone apps aren’t just for comparing prices anymore. Customers will start expecting other electronic advantages. Retailers should look for ways to use digital coupons, text messages with deals, electronic newsletters and web-exclusive sales to attract tech-savvy customers.
Cage-free eggs could raise prices
According to a study by Washington, D.C.–based agri-food consulting firm Promar International, if only cage-free eggs are sold in the U.S., consumers could be obliged to pay 25 percent more.
What’s next: According to the study, this means federal spending on food assistance programs could jump by $169 million annually, increasing the cost to consumers so much that egg imports could rise from close to zero today to 7 billion eggs annually.
What this means for retail: If you carry a variety of eggs—conventional and cage-free—be prepared to provide information about the differences and the issues involved. Make price comparisons available to cost-conscious shoppers who also are concerned about health as well as animal issues.