Turtle race for wellness

March 08, 2012

Supermarkets should consider connecting shoppers with dietitians and nutritionists via in-store teleconferencing and other media.

It is frustrating how slowly retailers are building wellness platforms – particularly since the public aim to eat healthier and prevent illness is well documented, and stores could readily fill this need with the right foods and convenient health care services.

Is it ironic that newly built supermarkets typically have pharmacies – though their presence is barely an influence on where consumers decide to do their primary food shopping, according to the 2012 SupermarketGuru Consumer Survey Report? Or do supermarkets simply need to leverage the benefits of pharmacy better?

Supermarkets have another way to burnish their wellness image – by making dietitians and nutritionists more prominent on their websites, on store tours, in direct mail, on social media, and even on in-store television. This would leverage their core strength of food and food knowledge, and appeal to younger households that may not feel the same ongoing need for pharmacy as Boomers and seniors do.

What The Lempert Report has in mind is a twist on Rite Aid’s new program to bring telemedicine into its stores virtually. In Rite Aid’s Detroit stores, patients have the option to enter a private room near pharmacy and pay $45 for a 10-minute video conference consult with a physician, according to American Medical News. This is part of a program initiated with OptumHealth, a division of UnitedHealth Group. 

This is an escalation of the convenient care clinic concept being driven by Walgreens, CVS and other major chains. It is also, in our view, a smart use of technology to wed education and professionalism to services and products available on the selling floor. It also generates incremental revenue and sets the bar higher for supermarkets aiming to offset the growing drug-chain tandem of pharmacy, clinics and food under one relatively compact roof.

If, as we suggest, supermarkets work this Rite Aid concept to their benefit with dietitians and nutritionists, they could use it not only to teach and be paid for it, but to direct shoppers to particular kinds of foods (specific brands, even) that suit particular health conditions in their household and could help lessen the risk of complexities. They could have teaching modules for families at different life stages (growing kids or in a college dorm for the first time), or they could dispense specific tips for individual dietary challenges.