Natural Foods Merchandiser


Look Hungry, It's the Boss!
Some of America's biggest employers have launched an anti-obesity campaign that aims to grow profits by slimming employees.

Ford Motor Co., General Mills and Fidelity Investments, among others, kicked off the Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity campaign in June to promote weight loss among employees. Obesity costs American employers $12 billion a year in health care expenses, says the initiative's sponsor, the Washington Business Group on Health, a lobbying organization funded by 175 Fortune 500 companies that collectively provide benefits for 40 million people.

Companies said they've ignored the issue for too long. Seriously overweight people cost their employers 77 percent more in prescription drug costs. Productivity drops, the group said; risk factors are higher for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

"This is like smoking 30 years ago," says Helen Darling, president of the business group.

Retailers can participate, she says, by contacting employers in their area and asking what programs they already host or are planning to launch: healthy cooking demonstrations, discounts, brown-bag events, exercise classes or weight-loss seminars at the office. Many large employers sponsor health fairs, often in conjunction with the enrollment period for insurance benefits, typically in the fourth quarter.

The message Darling hopes to get through to her membership and other employers: "Whatever you're doing, you have to step it up." Everything is on the table, from improving the nutrition of workplace food to opening stair doors in office buildings, she says.

Study Finds an Upward Trend For the Downward Dog
While its poses resemble forms from nature, yoga has generated a trend curve that looks like a hockey stick—up 28.5 percent in a year, according to a new study.

The research, performed by Harris Interactive for Yoga Journal, found that although three-quarters of yoga enthusiasts are women, interest in yoga can't be pigeonholed into a region or generation. More than 25 percent are 25 to 34 years old, but 26.9 percent are 45 to 54 years old. More than half have studied yoga for less than two years.

Expect the market to keep building, as one in six respondents, or 35.3 million people, said they plan to try yoga within the next 12 months.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 8/p. 22

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