The “Food as medicine” concept adopted by consumers

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The link between fresh, healthier food and improved well-being is not lost on grocery shoppers, even in today’s inflationary environment.

Of 2,054 U.S. adults surveyed, 84% consider health and wellness a key factor when shopping for fresh food, according to Deloitte’s “Fresh Food as Medicine for the Heartburn of High Prices” report, published Monday. Additionally, about 75% said they actively seek out more personalized nutrition, up 13 percentage points from a year ago, and 55% would pay extra for “the right foods” that support their health. and their well-being.

Deloitte, which in July surveyed consumers aged 18 to 70 who influenced fresh food purchases in their homes, noted that its study results reinforce the concept of “food as medicine,” or the use food and diet to prevent and treat specific health conditions and other personal issues. wellness goals.

Deloitte

For example, 80% of survey respondents believe that fresh foods are better for you than packaged or processed foods that are marketed as healthy. In turn, most respondents believe that certain foods provide functional benefits for well-being, such as improving mental or physical performance (cited by 79%), providing preventive properties (78%) or therapeutic (76%), or the best drug. (75%).

Many also seek specific benefits from food such as weight management (43%), management of existing medical conditions (32%), disease prevention (39%), boosting immunity (35%) , improved emotional/mental health (34%), increased cognitive performance (21%) and improved athletic performance (13%).

Others target the general wellness benefits of buying fresh food. Deloitte found that 52% favored the new options to “feel good”, 45% to increase overall energy and 24% to “look good”.

“Despite inflation and rising food prices, consumers are willing to pay for fresh food that will have a positive impact on their health and well-being,” said Daniel Edsall, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP, based in New York, in a press release. “Amid increasing competition, fresh food producers and retailers have the opportunity to educate consumers about healthy choices and use food as medicine. Grocers who can bridge the information gap between fresh foods and their health outcomes may be in a better position to convince consumers and compete on aspects other than price.

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Indeed, customers turn to food retailers for advice on how to find, choose and cook foods to best meet their health needs and goals and their particular dietary concerns. Deloitte’s survey showed that 62% of them are faced with conflicting information and confusion regarding the health properties of certain foods. Similarly, around 40% do not clearly understand which fresh foods can act as medicines, and 52% want data on the origins, safety and nutritional value of foods to do so.

Consumers, too, place great trust in grocers to help them in this regard. Fifty-six percent said they trust their grocer to provide data on the safety, origin and nutritional properties of fresh foods (56%) and to use and protect their personal data correctly (54%). Deloitte research also found that 48% would share data about their food preferences, 42% would share medical data (such as from an in-store pharmacy) and 48% would use a digital shopping app or website to get personalized fresh food. recommendations from their favorite grocer.

“Using food as medicine is one of the ways consumers can take control of their health. However, not all households have equal access or can afford to pay higher prices for fresh, healthy food, which is a contributing factor to health inequities and poorer outcomes. in health,” commented Jay Bhatt, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the Deloitte Institute for Health Equity. “We recognize that grocers and other stakeholders have an important role to play in supporting the health and well-being of their communities by helping to ensure their customers benefit from the link between healthy food and good health.”

Supermarkets, pharmacies and other grocery stores have been trying for years to position themselves as neighborhood health destinations. A core strategy has been to build stronger links between the food and pharmacy fields while providing the expertise of on-site pharmacy staff and professionals such as dietitians and nutritionists.

Such efforts have gained traction, particularly, amid the country’s diabetes epidemic as a way for patients to better manage their condition or, in the case of type 2 diabetes, reverse the condition by coordinating medicines and food. Many grocers also host in-store tours led by dietitians to help customers choose foods that are heart-healthy, low in sodium or sugar, low in fat or fat-free, or that meet specific dietary needs (such as gluten-free, keto, paleo, etc.).

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For example, The Kroger Co. developed its Food as Medicine platform to help consumers make smarter, more nutritious food choices to support overall well-being and help people with chronic conditions. In April, the grocer’s Kroger Health arm said it had funded a University of Cincinnati study — dubbed the Supermarket and Web-based Intervention Targeting Nutrition (SuperWIN) — finding that promoting a healthy diet for the heart with nutritional advice from a dietitian improved the quality of the diet. and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Kroger and other grocers have also allowed customers to receive “dietary prescriptions” to meet certain health needs. In 2020, Kroger piloted a program where doctors can write dietary prescriptions that patients fill at a local store under the guidance of a Kroger Health professional. As part of the test, a doctor made dietary recommendations to diabetic patients and referred them to a nutrition expert at a Kroger supermarket.

In 2019, Giant Food launched Produce Rx, a local nonprofit DC Greens program to improve access to healthy food. Through Produce Rx, people who receive benefits through the Medicaid health plan operated by AmeriHealth Caritas DC can obtain a fruit and vegetable prescription from a healthcare professional for a chronic diet-related illness and fill the script in a Giant supermarket pharmacy.

And last January, Stop & Shop announced plans to expand chain-wide with the Fresh Connect program, which provides food-insecure consumers with provider-prescribed prepaid debit cards. of health care to buy fresh products. Stop & Shop noted that with the expansion of Fresh Connect, it became the first major retailer to offer the prescription product program. Additionally, Stop & Shop worked in February with the National Grocers Association Foundation’s Technical Assistance Center to create testimonial and informational videos to promote the concept of food as medicine.

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