How to Implement a “Food as Medicine” Retail Program


January brings renewed enthusiasm for healthier habits, including the way we eat. This year, retailers and retail dieticians can use a ‘food-as-medicine’ approach to help shoppers build better habits – and potentially help retailers achieve higher return on investment (ROI) – throughout the year.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation (Academy Foundation) has developed several research-based resources that describe strategies for implementing and evaluating ‘food-as-medicine’ retail programs, the key role of dietitian and case studies of existing initiatives (see below). The effort was supported by a planning grant from Walmart.

What is “food as medicine” in retail?

In general, “food as medicine” uses food and nutrition to promote health and well-being. In retail, programs are ideally led by retail dietitians, with support across the company. Programs target customers, employees and / or the community and focus on healthy eating, managing health conditions, improving food security or promoting food security. If, like the vast majority of retailers, you already offer similar programs, you are using a “food-as-medicine” approach.

Apply “food as medicine” in retail

Following a scoping review of the health and wellness landscape of food retailing, the Academy Foundation has developed five models that retailers can use to implement and evaluate programs. of “food as medicine”. The combination of program models led to better results, including positive health outcomes and a return on investment.

Marketing the buying journey: These programs are intended to produce changes in behavior or the environment by increasing consumer awareness and knowledge about nutritious foods, or by increasing the availability or affordability of foods. Some examples are nutrition shelf labels, product nutrition information on a shopping app or website, cooking demonstrations, media interviews by retail dietitians, product placement, price discounts. and coupons.

Food incentives: The incentives encourage nutrient-dense foods through, for example, coupons and vouchers for food insecure families, digital coupons for customers, and discounts for employees.

Prescriptions: Retail dietitians prescribe fruits and vegetables or other foods for people with health or food safety concerns. The physical “prescription” could be a coupon, a voucher with monetary value, or a standard prescription to be presented in store.

Personalized nutrition education: Retail dietitians engage directly with shoppers to encourage positive behavior change. Examples include articles, blogs, or courses on health and nutrition related topics, supermarket tours, and one-on-one advice for conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

Medically adapted nutrition: This is a holistic approach for buyers with more complex health concerns. Retail dietitians prescribe personalized meals or boxes of food to suit the client’s condition. This approach is often combined with medical nutritional therapy by a dietitian.

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