Published on: April 29, 2004Earlier this week, FMI CEO Tim Hammonds told MNB that one of the goals at the Food Marketing Institute is to “give the floor a new look every year by rotating spotlight categories in and out coupled with special pavilions on the floor targeted at each year's hot topics. This year, our pavilions are the new electronic product code and healthy living (diet and health).”
Because the descriptions we’ve been reading about the new Healthy Living Pavilion struck us as particularly intriguing, we thought that we would turn to Jim Wisner of the Wisner Marketing Group, who has been working with FMI on the exhibition and education aspects of the pavilion, to get a heads-up on what to look for.
MNB: What’s the general philosophy/strategy behind the Healthy Living Pavilion?
Jim Wisner: From a consumer standpoint there really is no more significant a set of issues than health, nutrition, and wellness. The reasons are all very evident: An aging population, the impact of managed care, new products and technologies, and the explosion of information that helps us understand how to better manage our lives.
For the supermarket industry, there is no bigger opportunity. The emergence of “self-care is healthcare” involves food, drug, OTC and personal care; it is only within the supermarket environment that the consumer can act on all of these different product needs. The point of the Healthy Living Pavilion is both to focus retailer attention around these issues and to provide some of the means by which they can begin to build programs around their own stores. This is a huge opportunity for the supermarket industry.
MNB: It sounds like you are defining “healthy” in the broadest possible way—for some people it is a weight loss issue, for others it is being more nutritionally aware, for still others there is learning about foods that are relevant to a specific medical condition. It’d be our perception that this breadth of approach - and the granularity of understanding - actually reflects a sophistication that a lot of mainstream retailers don’t demonstrate in their stores. For them, health food is health food, and that’s as complicated as it gets. Would you agree? And if so, how do you get retailers to take a more comprehensive approach to a complicated category?
Jim Wisner: “Healthy” truly does take on different degrees of meaning for each individual. For some, it involves managing health conditions; for others, it is simply viewing prevention as the key to a happy and healthy existence.
Organic foods add a lifestyle dimension and new viewpoint to the equation. There are also the different health needs of different groups of people to consider—men, women, elderly, children, and others. Recognizing the breadth of this topic, each day the Healthy Living Pavilion will feature an expert panel focusing on a different area of what “Healthy” means to the consumer in a supermarket environment. On Sunday it will be pharmacy, Monday is food and nutrition, and Tuesday will look at special needs of individual consumers.
There is no question that many retailers have not yet risen to the occasion as quickly as their consumers have come looking for solutions. The good news is that many are now beginning to take a more comprehensive approach to health that involves the entire store. I think the fact that Sunday at the Show has been designated as “Pharmacy Synergy Day” underscores that issue. “Health” and “Healthy” covers an incredibly broad range of topics. I think the industry is now beginning to fully appreciate that this is one of those great occasions where the emerging needs of our customers are fully aligned with some very profitable opportunities.
The fact that this is a complicated issue only creates greater opportunity for increased differentiation from retailer to retailer. There is not just one right answer to how you approach marketing to the health needs of your consumers.
Each retailer can carve out its own niche.
MNB: Explain the “Chef’s Corner” and “Fun Walk” concepts—they seem to be a little unusual for FMI.
Jim Wisner: The Chef’s Corner is first and last about food, and this is the food industry. “Good For You” should taste good, too. What’s the point of eating healthfully if you can’t enjoy it?
The Fun Walks serve several purposes: First, they are a point of commitment. The GMDC/FMI Whole Health study several years ago identified being “a wellness-centered organization” as one of the keys to success. That begins with being health focused in your own life. Second, exercise is certainly a vital component of staying healthy. It is probably the lack of exercise that has most contributed to the obesity epidemic that we now face in this country. The third reason for the Fun Walks is to help the attendees acquire a quick overview of the Show and locate those exhibitors who may have the products or programs that can help them build health-focused promotions. They will be called out by the Fun Walk guide. We are going to have some fun with this, too. There will be prizes, you’ll get a button for completing the walk, and we suspect we will have a few celebrity walkers, too. This is an especially great activity for first time Show attendees.
MNB: Virtually every retailer who comes into the Healthy Living Pavilion will be in the position of needing action steps that they can take home to headquarters and sell to higher-ups. In your mind, what should these retailers be thinking about doing to build sales in this category?
Jim Wisner: At the end of the day, the whole point of the Healthy Living Pavilion is that the retailers in attendance will be far better equipped to build sales around Health and Wellness themes. To do that, there are really four things that must occur.
- First is an understanding of the issues. The scope of activities provided in the Healthy Living Pavilion will most certainly touch on most of them.
- Second is just knowing what’s available. In the Pavilion you will be able to pick up self-guided tour sheets that are organized around a variety of different topics—low-carb, diabetes, healthy snacks, and natural/organic, just to name a few. These guides are designed to help Show attendees use their time efficiently to identify and meet with all those companies that have something to offer for their most important issues.
- Third is to begin providing consumers with information. In the most recent FMI Shopping for Health survey, 81% of the shoppers thought it was very, or somewhat, important that their supermarket carry health and nutrition information.
However, only 35% felt that their store did an excellent or good job of doing this. This was the single biggest opportunity gap measured in the FMI survey. Consumers are confused about what to buy, and information can most certainly lead to sales.
- Fourth is a commitment to DO something. Everyone talks about this topic, everyone knows it is important, but as of yet only a handful of retailers are approaching it aggressively. In your interview with Tim Hammonds the other day he indicated that the focus was on targeting growth as the new priority. Focusing on this most important of consumer topics is certainly a path for growth.
For more about FMI 2004, go to:
- KC's View:
- It so happens that as we were putting this piece together, FMI announced that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson will formally open the Healthy Living Pavilion at FMI on Sunday. He’ll also be sharing the stage during the annual “FMI Speaks” presentation on Sunday morning.
So this is a big deal. And a smart move.