Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not always as simple as knowing what is and what isn’t ‘good’ for us. Our consumption patterns are determined by a whole host of interrelated extraneous variables. These range from our income, family size, demography, culture, taste preferences, and daily working schedules. Such factors have a significant role to play in influencing not only which products we place in our basket, but also which shops we walk into in the first place, or which online shopping sites we choose to visit.

In an age wherein over 39% of adults globally are overweight or obese we are facing a worldwide health crisis (World Health Organisation, 2018). Clearly, the simple knowledge that the wholefoods available in the fruit & veg aisle are healthier than those found on the checkout lane is not enough to consistently steer customers towards sustainable healthy decisions.

A New Healthcare Conversation

While the average American citizen visits the doctor four times a year, the average customer may visit their local food store up to four times a week (Forbes, McCarthy, 2018). Due to the significantly higher touch-point frequency that retailers have with customers, therefore, compared to health care professionals, it is my belief that retailers have a vital role to play in alleviating the economic strain that public health issues are placing on society, offering a proactive and preventative healthcare strategy.

Certainly, the conversations around healthy consumption are complex, crowded and often rife with contradictory assumptions. As Senior Director, Health & Wellness at Walmart, I believe that if retailers are to successfully ‘nudge’ customers towards healthier consumption and begin a turn-around of our current health crisis, we must implement a holistic approach to promoting health and wellness.

To do this we must utilise industry-specific expertise in driving behavioural change and begin to accurately identify and respond to all of the diverse extraneous barriers that play a part in making ‘healthy’ decisions. Only through actively embracing the wider picture can retailers drive business growth and positive social change.

Technology at the Heart of Change

All across the world, technology is driving colossal change in the ways in which we communicate, interact, move and shop. The consumer goods industry has a unique opportunity to leverage our vast internal data pools to help design and implement a more cohesive and customised health and wellness strategy. Through doing so retailers and manufacturers can engage in health-related issues throughout the year, playing a more proactive and strategic role in combating our global health crisis.

For example, at Walmart we have launched the ZP wellness programme and accompanying app for our associates. Through this initiative, we have been able to aid over half a million associates to both craft and track their own uniquely-tailored health and wellness ‘plan-of-action,’ and leverage technology to take into consideration each of the extraneous variables effecting the health journey.

In addition, our ZP programme highlights the importance of the retailers’ positioning as a ‘collaborator’ in consumer health and wellness, as opposed to a didactic ‘educator.’ If retailers are to support consumers in maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the long-run, they must equip both associates and customers with the appropriate information and a holistic toolset to empower them to make their own healthy choices.

Building a Health & Wellness Eco-system

Despite this, even with the leverage of unique consumer data, proving to external stakeholders that retailers and CPG manufacturers are part of the solution to our current health crisis will take time and a consistent effort. I am confident that in order for retailers to serve as an effective, global healthcare network, they must embrace a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach.

A key driver for positive change has been The Consumer Goods Forum’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives platform, which plays a powerful role in driving such an eco-system approach to health and wellness through retailer and manufacturer collaborations in communities around the world. Through proactively investing in the world health agenda, we, as retailers, can create tremendous shared value for our customers, the communities we serve and our business.

I will be exploring this and more alongside over 250 peers from around the world at The Consumer Goods Forum’s Sustainable Retail Summit later this month. It is my hope that the Sustainable Retail Summit will serve to spur the consumer goods industry to action, inviting retailers and manufacturers to embrace their social responsibility, and drive a new wave of shared commercial value, as companies share concrete examples of how they are working together to drive positive change globally.  

This blog was written and contributed by:

Alex Hurd
Senior Director, Health & Wellness