Natural Foods Merchandiser
Rachel Begun

Resolve to help your customers with their health resolutions

The new year marks a business opportunity as Americans resolve to improve their health. Here are five smart business moves to help your customers achieve their goals.

An estimated 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent of those who do successfully achieve their goals. I always tell my clients that healthy eating starts at the grocery store because you can’t make nutritious meals and snacks without the right ingredients in your kitchen. 

Here are five ways to help your customers be among the 8 percent of achievers. Assist them, and they are likely to remain loyal to you. 

1. Promote healthy foods in overlooked areas.
There is a widely held misconception that fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than frozen. A newly released study from the University of Georgia comparing nutrient composition of fresh vs. frozen fruits and vegetables found that frozen produce have equal or even greater nutrient concentrations than their fresh counterparts. Other wholesome, healthful foods in overlooked aisles include whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Use store promotions to remind your health-conscious customers about options throughout the store.

2. “Clean up” prepared foods.

Nutrition professionals like me often warn clients to be wary of the prepared foods counter because heavy dressings and sauces on these foods add unnecessary amounts of added sugars and fats. Consider filling a section of your prepared foods counter with salads and meat, poultry and fish dishes that go light on dressings, marinades and sauces. Another option is to sell items naked, so that customers can season to their liking at home. It’s often the time and labor that goes into cutting, chopping and cooking that brings customers to the prepared foods bar. Those seeking healthier and lower-calorie options are willing to put in some of the prep time.


3. Help customers understand labels.

The nutrition facts panel (NFP), ingredients statement, front-of-package claims and voluntary disclaimers—they’re enough to make any health-conscious consumer throw up her arms in frustration and possibly even walk away without buying. Let your customers know that your store dietitians can help them understand a package label. You can also offer one-on-one shopping assistance, group education classes, or written articles on the store website or in e-newsletters. A commitment to helping your customers understand food labels will come back to you in long-term store loyalty.


4. Make store-brand labels consumer friendly.

Making your private-label product labels easier to understand and less misleading can be a competitive advantage over national brands. A couple of examples to consider: serving sizes and trans fats. A 16- or 20-ounce beverage might report a serving size of 8 ounces on the nutriton facts panel, rather than the whole bottle, making it easy for consumers to miscalculate the total number of calories and other nutrients in that package. And when it comes to trans fats, the FDA offers a loophole. Foods that contain hydrogenated oils may be labeled 0 grams trans fat when they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But what happens when a customer eats more than one serving? Being transparent about serving sizes, trans fats and other labeling considerations makes it easier for customers to make healthier choices, and they are more likely to buy the store brand over national brands.


5. Offer store tours and cooking workshops.

Adults and children alike eat foods they are comfortable with, and grocery shopping and cooking are the two best ways to become familiar with healthier foods. Schedule store tours to teach people how to make the healthiest choices in each department of the store. Customers particularly like tours specific to certain health and medical conditions—such as diabetes, heart disease or food allergies and intolerances. Cooking workshops are another excellent way to educate attendees about how to use the many foods available in your store while also raising their awareness about ingredients they might not have tried before.

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