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FMI – The Food Industry Association released findings from its latest survey report, “2024 Report on Food Industry Contributions to Health & Well-being” late last week underscoring the food industry’s focus to empower consumers to eat healthier and to offer programs to aid their journey. The FMI Survey, which represented more than 11,000 stores represented by 36 companies, found that 84% of responding food retailers are operating with nutrition and health and well-being strategies. This is the first report from FMI which has collected findings from both food retailers and consumer packaged goods brands and will serve as a benchmark on health and wellness for the food industry.

Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, FMI’s senior director of health and well-being, who led the study, said that “healthy eating has clearly become a priority for shoppers, and the grocery store continues to evolve as an accessible, community-based destination for health and well-being.” Over the past decade, many supermarkets have hired retail dietitians, offered in-store and on-line nutrition classes, offered health screenings, better-for-you recipes and added nutrition rating systems with on-shelf signage to help their shoppers navigate what at times has been a confusing landscape. Sixty-five percent reported offering incentives to encourage the purchase of better-for-you foods though coupons, vouchers, rebates and discounts.

Register, during the media briefing, highlighted that a significant effort is underway with 78% of supermarket retailers and brands reformulating their products to provide healthier options; with over half planning on reducing sodium and reducing added sugars on cereals, breads, baked goods and frozen foods as well as across supermarkets’ own brand portfolios. Another priority for 45% of those companies surveyed said adding “beneficial” ingredients to their products is part of their reformulation plan. One in four companies also cited adjusting portion sizes, which could be an attempt to curb inflationary prices, or meet the consumer need for portion control especially in light of the growing population now taking GLP-1 weight loss medications.

Registered dietitians now “have a seat at the leadership table,” she added, with 71% of those employed at grocers or brands operating at the corporate level, playing key roles in overall strategy, marketing, communication, regulatory and legislative issues, food safety, e-commerce and digital merchandising. The survey found that of those surveyed, 82% employ registered dietitians. As one of the few scientific-based professionals at supermarkets during the COVID-19 pandemic, these dietitians stepped in to elevate the knowledge and importance of health and well-being throughout their organizations as they sought to better understand how to satisfy their shoppers’ needs. In turn, highlighting their value across their companies, which helped to create a strong foundation to build on retailers’ health and wellness initiatives. In fact, the survey finds that 46% of company presidents, CEOs and marketing leadership are driving health and well-being initiatives. 

The FMI Foundation’s Family Meals initiative, founded in 2015, focuses on the importance of families eating together to improve family connectiveness, communication, and as a result, families who eat together have better diets in general and eat more fruits and vegetables. The FMI survey found that 75% of food industry companies are actively promoting communal eating such as family meals, and that 90% include nutritional messaging in their communal eating promotions. Fifty-six percent of the food industry respondents said their companies employ a chef or culinary professional at the corporate level and that 79% of those said when working with registered dietitians, they developed recipes based on health and well-being criteria. In-store, 43% said they developed meal solutions based on health and well-being criteria by being involved with registered dietitians.

To communicate nutrition, health and well-being information, the food industry’s number one customer outreach by 100% of those surveyed reported to be through social media, with 33% reporting the channel as being very effective. Not surprisingly, the most effective vehicle by 64%, among those using the channel, was through store pharmacists, underscoring the importance of health, nutrition and well-being being a store-wide initiative. Old school marketers will delight to learn that the second highest rated in being very effective was the store’s weekly circular, reinforcing the need for retailers (and brands) to include their health messaging both in print and on digital circulars to reach all generations of shoppers. The FMI report also found that the best way to combat health trends that shoppers are exposed to is that 52% are providing evidence-based nutrition messaging. FMI highlights that as an industry opportunity.

As Food as Medicine programs continue to gain attention from retailers, brands and shoppers, this FMI 2024 Report on Food Industry Contributions to Health and Well-Being provides valuable tools and insights for the food world to effectively communicate better-for-you messaging to consumers and help change the foods and beverages that Americans consume.

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