Merchandising Health: Part 2

Merchandising Health: Part 2

April 17, 2013
Retail Industry Insights

Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
RDBA Executive Director 

Last week in Merchandising Health: Part 1, promotional space, slotting fees and integrated vs. segregated merchandising were discussed.  This week, we’ll shift our focus to leveraging merchandising strategies in promotion of healthier products. 

Timing is key when it comes to merchandising health.  The weeks leading up to the Superbowl aren’t the time to suggest a front-end promotion of better-for-you (BFY) products.  This season is too important for revenue generation in key snack and beverage categories.  However, back-to-school, January resolutions, and February as heart health month are times when it would be easier to sell a health merchandising idea to category managers and buyers.  The retailer can benefit from all the national media attention around these events, helping to ensure merchandising promotions of healthier foods meet revenue generation expectations.  Partner with heads of these departments months in advance to ensure adequate time to sell in health related promotions to vendors.

An important element in working with retail staff to promote BFY foods in promotional spaces is to create criteria for products allowed to be included in the space.  Vendors can vary in their definitions of “better-for-you,” and you want to ensure the products included meet your criteria and provide a consistent message for your shoppers. 

Taking advantage of promotional seasons can be impactful for increasing shopper purchases of healthier items, but the regular aisles are ripe with opportunity.  Vendors acting in a category captain capacity can be valuable information sources as to what’s selling and not selling on the retail shelf.  Armed with this information, walk your stores and consider options that could increase sales of BFY products.  For example, if the healthier options are on the lowest shelf, you may want to recommend a test to the category manager of moving the items to eye level to gain more shopper interest and increase sales.  There are certain categories, like cereal for example, where it may be compelling to merchandise them by health benefit.  In the frozen aisles, can healthy frozen meals be moved to the end of the aisle?

It’s common today to see cross promotion of products into other departments – marinades in fresh meats, bananas in the cereal aisle.  Using this strategy specifically for healthier options, to remind pharmacy customers of the benefit foods play in disease management, and to sell non-food items that make building healthy lifestyle behavior easier add to the total store health offering for your shoppers.  With ongoing shopper demand for answers to the question “what’s for dinner?” healthier meal displays are an impactful opportunity in merchandising.

At RDBA, we know that ROI is a key topic of discussion related to health and wellness programs in the retail space.  As you develop and implement BFY merchandising strategies, be sure to include measurement as a part of your plan.  Retail metrics matter to department heads and senior leadership, and they can be a compelling way to showcase the value your role and initiatives bring to the company.

As dietitians, our goal is to help consumers live healthier lives.  Leveraging merchandising strategies can provide broad reach to improve consumer health behaviors.