Re-examining Diabetes Offerings to Maintain Retailer Differentiation

Re-examining Diabetes Offerings to Maintain Retailer Differentiation

January 6, 2016

by RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

According to CDC data, 9.3% of the population or 29.1 million Americans had diabetes in 2012.  In that year alone, 1.7 million consumers were expected to be diagnosed with diabetes. This data doesn't surprise most retail dietitians as you are knowledge about this long-term health condition and likely offer services and programs for your shoppers with diabetes.

What may be compelling for those working in retail is the significant concern persons with diabetes have about the cost of supplies, treatment and disease management. Retailers have responded by offering very low pricing on insulin, metformin and other medications used for diabetes management as well as offering promotions on supplies like testing strips and lancets. IRI data indicates that one way shoppers are saving money in the diabetes support category is by purchasing private label products. In fact, 40% of diabetes and other home test sales are private label, and in the 52-week period ending May 18, 2014, these sales increased 15% from $138-159 million, according to IRI. But as many retailers offer discounts and private label options in this category, the challenge is how the grocer can differentiate products, services, and programs to attract and retain the shopper with diabetes moving forward.

Focusing on price-consciousness is an interesting lens for retail RDs to re-examine their retailers' current and future offerings for this shopper.  While your primary focus is on nutrition programs and services, your knowledge of the comprehensive needs of a person with diabetes can be an asset to a broader category assortment in your retailer. Consider these tips in how you might take your retailer's programs to a new level for cost-conscious shoppers managing diabetes:

  • Confirm the right assortment. Create a comprehensive list of store category and product lines that are relevant to shoppers with diabetes to ensure you’re meeting all their needs.  Include food (both traditional foods as well as items like tabs, gels, and beverages specifically marketed to those with diabetes), prescriptions, OTC meds, testing supplies, lotions, vision care items, and/or exercise equipment. Consider comp shopping key items in each category to understand how your retailer compares on price to your competitors, whether you offer private label in the right categories, and how products are promoted at other retailers. Include drug stores and supercenters in the comp shops. Consider using student interns for this project.  
  • Suggest unique promotions and product bundles. Many food vendors target the consumer with diabetes and may be willing to do some interesting product bundles related to those items that this shopper finds costly over a monthly or annual basis (like test strips).  
  • Build relevant cross promotions. Pain management, skin care, vision care -- there are many elements that go into self-care for the shopper with diabetes. Partner with category managers across the store to offer promotions, displays and endcaps across categories, with focus on those that offer the greatest value to the shopper.
  • Tailor your program to cost-consciousness.  Many retail RDs offer tours, cooking classes, support groups, and education sessions for shoppers with diabetes. Sharpen these programs by taking a cost-conscious cut through them. Do the recipes you promote use low cost ingredients with high nutritional value? During tours, do you talk about lower cost options to glucose tablets and gels? Do you include costs on daily meal plans?

The shopper who is managing diabetes can be valuable to the retailer, and options that increase their loyalty will drive added business to your retail company. At the same time, you can be significantly impact the shoppers’ disease management by refining your product assortment, programs and services to ensure they meet all their needs – including cost consciousness and desire for one-stop shopping.