One expert’s tips for developing a top-level wellness program

I recently had an interesting conversation with Patricia Chuey regarding the future of wellness programs in grocery. As a registered dietitian, a good part of her career was spent at Canadian grocer Overwaitea, but now she spends her time consulting with other retailers on how to develop long-term strategies for wellness. As our talk turned to the topic of what qualities go into creating a successful wellness program, Patricia mentioned that while the goal of every retailer is to increase sales, there are specific things a wellness program needs to offer if it is ever to be viewed by mainstream consumers as a destination for better-for-you products.


To begin with, she says to gain the most objective view of what works and what doesn’t, rather than relying solely on the word of suppliers retailers need to start listening to their consumers and staff, beginning with conducting an in-depth needs assessment. What’s more, she reminded me that seeking feedback throughout the year and a willingness to modify programs as needed are critical to success.


Additionally, to establish oneself as the place for better-for-you products, Patricia points out that your customers have to trust the messages you are communicating. Proudly telling them your values and aligning your product mix and marketing messages with these values are the fastest means to building customer loyalty, she believes. “This, coupled with great service, will do more for sales than any product pamphlet,” stresses Patricia.


Here are some other tips she offers:


Make your wellness program a team effort: involve your pharmacy staff, employees and dietitians to lend credibility to your wellness positioning. Let these people be the face of your campaign. If you have no access to staff who have studied and understand obesity, diabetes, food allergies and the other issues your customers are seeking solutions for, call in back up in the form of consultants and advisors.


Keep programs simple: although obesity, diabetes and other health threats Americans face are very complex problems, she points out that retailers have the opportunity to provide simple, yet incredibly effective solutions. Consider such basic, practical displays as “How to Boil an Egg.” Provide information on why eggs are healthy and recipe ideas, along side a display of eggs that include omega-3 and free-range options, etc.


Resist teaming with “imposter” brands: Patricia believes stocking products that pretend to be healthy but that aren’t really is risky business, noting that consumers will quickly see through this and lose trust in you.


Offer fair prices and simplify shopping: no matter how amazing the wellness product or program is, she says if it’s not affordable and easy to access, customers won’t buy it from you. “Health and time are irreplaceable, tremendously valuable commodities for your shopper. Find ways to deliver health-enhancing products in a time-saving fashion and you’ve cracked the code,” Patricia notes. 


Thanks Patricia, I know I learned a lot from this and I’ll bet retailers will as well.


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