Happy 2018! As one year ends and another year begins, it’s helpful (and fun!) to reflect upon events that that impacted our work and the people around us, and look to the future to see what is to come. As an active member of the CGF’s Health & Wellness Steering Committee, through my work with IGA, and as a dietitian, I have been doing this very exercise myself.  We all play a part in helping our customers, our employees, and our organizations work towards achieving personal and professional goals in health and wellbeing. Here are a few actionable and inspirational concepts that can help address what is on shoppers’ minds as their questions about health and wellbeing continue to include broader concepts, and as we see their purchasing behaviors shift.

1. There is interest at both the organizational and individual levels in moving from wellness to wellbeing. People are not looking at “just” managing disease as the best route to care for themselves, but instead, are looking to be more proactive in all phases of their health, from prevention to chronic disease self-care. One important thing I like to consider is that whether or not you have a chronic disease, and whatever your personal health and history are, wellbeing is about taking care of yourself.

The digital tools we have available now and the way people can access knowledge and take action on information can be used to enhance each person’s individual quest for wellbeing. From a content perspective, there is a role for pretty much everyone across the food supply chain to help transform the way we interact with, and take action upon, knowledge. Be sure that in addition to wellbeing content experts your digital/IT team is prepared to help execute with excellence, and ensure all the checks and balances for data management, privacy, crisis communications and other relevant considerations are part of your planning and implementation process.

Consider the infrastructure and the culture of your organization, and look at where changes can be made, both small and large, to start shifting the thinking and execution of employee health and wellbeing programs as well as programs aimed at our target audiences. The winners here will be those who can maximize resources and ensure integration between our internal and external health and wellbeing offerings. Put the end user first and remember that our employees are our customers and our customers are craving authenticity. This means what we do inside our own culture can translate and boost what we do for our customers. Make sure your metrics are right, too. Thinking about authenticity, transparency, and general feelings of happiness and trust may feel a bit intangible now, but if we remember the human experience and solutions based approach to what we sell and/or offer, it can be a process that’s transformative for all involved.

Check out the resources and case studies from our employee health and wellness working group for inspiration, ideas, and tools to help think through what’s best for your organization locally and globally. Remember to consider the multicultural influence that offers a unique look at what can work for a global point of view. This will translate not just country to country, but to the multicultural workforce and customer base that lends rich perspective and opportunity for interaction.

2. Focus turns from collecting things to collecting experiences. Consider that teens are now spending more money on food than clothing. This lends the opportunity to really connect with our customers in ways that we haven’t been able to – or even dreamed of – before. Food can be a connecting factor socially, culturally, emotionally, and people are yearning for culinary education, fun, and new flavors. What can you do to make the story of your products and services the star for the very audiences you want to connect with?

3. Farm to fork authenticity. People have questions about their food, literally from farm to fork, changing what drives their purchases to include more details covering aspects across the food supply chain. The implications to all involved from farm to processor to retailer to shopper and beyond are big, so it’s important to get the details right. Define terminology that may not have a universal definition. Words like “local”, “sustainable”, “farm to table” can mean different things to different people, so be sure that your products and services are framed up intentionally to avoid confusion. This isn’t about a marketing program, it’s about our infrastructure, and good intentions can have unintended consequences if not executed correctly.

Collaborate with diverse experts from across the food supply chain and ensure data used is credible and checked. Tell your story accurately from the farmer, health professional and individual shopper point of view to help ensure authenticity, accuracy, and actionable impact. If it’s not memorable, helpful, or actionable, it can be a waste of a good story. Walking a mile in the shoes of another across the food supply chain and from the shopper point of view will help inspire growth and progress here.

Wishing you a fun, insightful, prosperous and healthful new year personally and professionally! 

Kimberly Kirchherr
IGA Health & Wellness Advisor
Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA)