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    RD Symposium: Connecting With Consumers

    Dietitians dissect shopper engagement at first day of PG conference

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    Sheri Steinbach, nutrition manager at Meijer Inc., Mary Snell, director of nutrition and wellness at Marsh Supermarkets, and Eileen Myers, VP of retail dietetics at Kroger

    Day 1 of Progressive Grocer's Retail Dietitian Symposium offered ideas on how to connect with shoppers in search of guidance on the best choices at the grocery store for health and wellness.

    General session topics Monday afternoon included consumer segmentation, food traceability, farm-to-fork stories and FODMAP diet plans. The symposium continues Tuesday at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago.

    Helping Shoppers Turn Desire into Reality

    John Essegian, EVP at TNS Landis, presented this session that offered insights on key consumer segments, their motivators and influencers to identify them. Essegian said consumers can be divided into four broad categories along the food-health relationship continuum:

    - Nonchalant: Health-satisfied folks including “On the Run Grazers,” motivated by speed and convenience but lacking cooking prowess; and “Do As I Pleasers,” motivated by control and contentment, with cooking skills but not adventurous.
    - Satisfied: Encompassing “Healthy Foodies” (adventurous cooks) and “Busy Belongers” (adventurous non-cooks who crave convenience).
    - Striving: These folks are not satisfied with their health and weight, including “Wellness Activists” (non-adventurous cooks aiming for personal improvement) and “Habitual Pragmatists” (non-adventurous non-cooks seeking familiarity and to remove guilt).
    - Struggling: “Comfort Cravers” (adventurous cooks seeking pleasure) and Tired Survivors (non-adventurous non-cooks seeing stress relief).

    “Health is an increasingly crowded marketplace,” Essegian said, noting food manufacturers often launch products that consumers think they should eat but don’t really want. “It makes for a confusing marketplace.”

    A Dietitian’s Guide to the Modern Shopper

    Kristin Hoddy, health and wellness director at SPINS, and Kora Lazarski, SPINS’ strategic alliance manager, discussed the retail departments experiencing the most disruption from changing consumer demand.

    Identified as mega trends driving growth across most grocery categories: organic, gluten-free, vegan and paleo.

    Noting that shoppers aren’t waiting for research to validate their beliefs, the speakers advised RDs to use sales data to understand what’s top of mind for shoppers.

    Lessons from the Food Traceability Sector

    Consumers are willing to pay more for products boasting traceability, said Tejas Bhatt, director of the Global Food Traceability Center at the Institute of Food Technologists.

    Driving the desire for traceability, according to Bhatt: conscious consumers wanting more information about health; “citizen science,” driven by social media and beliefs over facts; individualized needs; and technology.

    “The food system today is a global supply chain,” he said. “Almost nothing is truly local.”

    The Evolution of Retail Health and Wellness

    A panel of executives discussed the changing retail landscape, shifts in wellness priorities, the impact of consumer trends and the evolving roles and career paths of RDs.

    The panel included Sheri Steinbach, nutrition manager at Meijer Inc.; Mary Snell, director of nutrition and wellness at Marsh Supermarkets; and Eileen Myers, VP of retail dietetics at Kroger; and was moderated by symposium emcee Karen Buch of Nutrition Connections LLC, a PG wellness columnist.

    How do RDs support their company’s goals? For Meijer, it’s about “focusing on the customer first,” Steinbach said, and including associates “and empowering them to know about our health and wellness resources so they can be spokespeople.”

    Snell said Marsh’s objective is to be “the health and wellness leader of the community,” while Myers noted that Kroger is committed to improving health and wellness in the communities it serves through strategic partnerships, such as its acquisition of Little Clinics for in-store wellness services.

    Shifts in retailers’ wellness strategies include more RD access to departments across the store and RDs influencing selection by working with category managers and buyers.

    We’re doing more to help the consumer understand food,” Myers said.

    Other sessions focused on fact vs. myth on artificial sweeteners, how to guide consumers on FODMAP diet plans (avoiding foods with short-chain carbohydrates that cause digestion problems), and telling farm-to-fork stories to better help shoppers connect with the food they buy.

    Follow live updates from the RD Symposium on Twitter at @pgrocer and @jimdudlicek


    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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