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Food as Medicine

A Deloitte Study by Supermarket News

Food as medicine’ concept embraced by consumers

  • The link between fresh, healthier food and improved well-being isn’t lost on grocery shoppers, even amid today’s inflationary environment.

  • 84% weigh health and wellness as a key factor when buying fresh food, according to Deloitte’s “Fresh Food as Medicine for the Heartburn of High Prices” report. What’s more, about 75% said they’re actively seeking more personalized nutrition, up 13 percentage points from a year ago, and 55% will pay extra for “the right foods” that bolster their health and wellness goals.

  • For example, 80% of survey respondents think fresh foods are better for you than packaged or processed foods that are marketed as healthy. In turn, most of those polled believe certain foods bring functional wellness benefits, such as boosting mental or physical performance (cited by 79%), providing preventive (78%) or therapeutic health properties (76%), or serving as the best medicine (75%).

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

  • Others target general wellness benefits from purchasing fresh food. Deloitte found that 52% favor fresh options to “feel good,” 45% to lift overall energy and 24% to “look good.”

  • Indeed, customers are looking to grocery retailers for guidance on how to find, choose and cook the foods to best support their health needs and goals and special dietary concerns. Deloitte’s survey showed that 62% are encountering conflicting information and confusion about the health properties of certain foods. Likewise, about 40% don’t clearly understand which fresh foods can act like medicine, and 52% want data about food origins, safety and nutritional value to do so.

  • Consumers, too, hold a high level of trust in grocers to help them in this regard. Fifty-six percent said they trust their grocer to provide data about the safety, origin and nutritional properties of fresh food items (56%) and properly use and protect their personal data (54%). Deloitte’s research also revealed that 48% would share data on their dietary preferences, 42%) would share some 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 preferred grocer.

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

  • Supermarkets, drugstores and other grocery retailers for years have been trying to position themselves as neighborhood health destinations. A core strategy has been building stronger connections between the food and pharmacy areas while offering expertise from on-site-pharmacy staff and professionals such as dietitians and nutritionists.

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

SOURCE: Supermarket News (Deloitte Study)

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