Retailers, suppliers invest in nutrition strategies: FMI report

Grocery retailers and their suppliers are increasingly embracing strategies around nutrition and the concept of “food as medicine,” according to a new report from FMI—the Food Industry Association.

FMI’s newly released Food Industry Contributions to Health and Well-Being 2024 report found that 70% of member companies that responded to its survey currently have established nutrition, health, and well-being strategies, and about a third have set measurable targets and goals for these programs. For the first time, the report surveyed both food retailers and their suppliers.

“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,” said Krystal Register, senior director for health and well-being, FMI. “This report illustrates that companies across the food industry are committed throughout their entire organizations to offer products and services to help families make positive food purchasing decisions and support them on their health and well-being journeys.”

Among companies responding to FMI’s survey:

  • 90% include nutritional messaging as part of family meals promotions
  • 78% are reformulating national and private brand products to reduce nutrients of concern, such as sodium and added sugars
  • 67% of food retailers operate pharmacies
  • 63% identify disease prevention and health promotion as a top area of focus for programming in the next two years
  • 54% plan to partner with allied health organizations, such as the American Heart Association
  • 46% expect to partner with health insurance providers in the near future.

The report found that companies cited “competing priorities” as by far the biggest challenge they face in implementing nutrition, health, and well-being programs, reported by 62% of respondents, outpacing “proving return on investment” at 17%.

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Bigger role for dietitians

The report also found that registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are playing larger roles in companies’ health and well-being strategies. Eighty-two percent of food retailers and suppliers said they employ dietitians throughout their organizations, and 71% have dietitians in place at the corporate level. These corporate-level dietitians are involved in strategic leadership, regulatory affairs, labeling, ecommerce, marketing, and communications initiatives. Nearly a fifth of companies surveyed employ registered dietitians in their retail locations, serving both customers and employees.

In addition, food retailers are also employing more doctors and nurses, the survey found. More than a third (36%) of food retailers employ registered nurses, up from 20% in 2021; 14% employ nurse practitioners, up from 8% in 2021; and 14% employ medical doctors, up from 4% in 2021.

These changes in staffing come as “food as medicine” programs, which connect nutrition to improved health outcomes, are also gaining momentum. Companies are implementing in-store programs designed to help reduce diet-related disease and support health goals for shoppers, according to the report. These include path-to-purchase marketing, incentive programs, and personalized nutrition education solutions that work synergistically with prescription programs and medically tailored nutrition.

Food companies are also increasingly offering nutrition counseling and well-being and weight-management classes for employees, according to the report:

  • 66% of companies offer healthy recipes to employees
  • 62% offer health screenings
  • 52% offer nutrition counseling
  • 48% offer well-being classes
  • 38% offer weight management classes
  • 38% offer meal-planning resources

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