Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, Va., released the “2019 Retailer Contributions to Health and Wellness report, which finds grocery stores expanding their health and wellness programs. The majority (90%) of survey respondents report having an established health and wellness program and about half (49%) have programs for both employees and customers. This is an 86% increase in health and wellness activity since 2017.

“Overwhelmingly, food retailers see health and wellness programs not only as a business growth opportunity (71%), but also as a way to meet consumer expectations (63%),” says Hilary Thesmar, chief food and product safety officer and senior vice president food safety. “Grocers understand their value as both a destination and partner in a shopper’s health and wellness journey. The report finds retailers offer an enormous spectrum of health and wellness programming, especially around activities that provide more shopper experiences and product assortment.”

To ensure a high level of health and wellness offerings, 85% of survey respondents report employing registered dietitians. Of those, 70% employ these nutrition experts at the corporate level while 27% employ them regionally. In addition, one in three grocery stores report having an in-store clinic for shoppers with about half of these clinics owned and operated by a health system organization.

“The shift in more health and wellness program offerings focused on both ill-and well-oriented services indicates a more well-rounded approach to health and well-being at food retail,” adds Thesmar. “Food retailers see value in being known for health and wellness services, and by looking at the top and bottom in-store offerings, we begin to form a picture of how food retailers are using health and wellness programs to set themselves apart.”

The report finds an opportunity for food retailers to better integrate health and wellness programs with omnichannel strategies. According to this year’s survey, 94% of retailers who responded offer online shopping, yet only 70% extend their health and wellness initiatives to those online shoppers.

The survey represented 39 food retail companies and over 20,000 stores ranging from small to large.