All's Well That Sells Well

If you follow industry and consumer trends at all, you know there is renewed interest in wellness. “Wellness” carries a number of definitions, depending on who one asks, but at its core is the desire to live a more healthful life, with various levels of exercise, nutrition and even sustainability as part of the mix.

A less apparent but important trend is one of retailers – food retailers in particular – working to connect more effectively with shoppers. Price has taken on a lower priority, partly due to changing economics, and partly due to the price dominance of Walmart and Amazon. Price-only shoppers know where to go; all others are looking for value but with more than just the over-used and under-delivered “low prices” claim.

Put these two trends together and it quickly becomes apparent that there is a significant opportunity for food retailers to use wellness as a differentiator to connect with shoppers at a deeper level.

This is where food retailers have a solid basis to act as experts and educators. As sellers of food, they already have a basic foundation of knowledge; a little added oomph can make a big difference in attracting and retaining those valuable shoppers concerned about wellness. And they are valuable shoppers, with overall greater basket size on average. This is especially true for shoppers in the vitamin and mineral supplement (VMS) category – the average basket size for a VMS shopper is 35 percent larger than for shoppers who don’t buy vitamins.

The biggest challenge for VMS buyers is getting enough reliable and relevant information. Although online research has become the norm as preparation for just about any shopping trip, when buying nutrition-related products it becomes a challenge for a typical consumer to sort through the hype and half-truths that tend to surround this category.

The good news is that VMS shoppers tend to favor supermarkets and drug stores for their purchases, with more than 80 percent having bought there in the past two years. And nearly 70 percent of VMS shoppers always buy them in those stores, as opposed to online or in specialty stores. Moreover, the VMS category is highly resistant to economic trends.

The category has built-in benefits for loyalty and basket size: VMS shoppers have a larger basket to start with, and they are more likely to buy from a supermarket or drug store they trust. The only challenge for the retailer is to get more of these shoppers into the store and influence greater purchase behavior while they are there.

Create a Destination

The first step for a retailer looking for a way to differentiate and target wellness shoppers is to create a vitamin and mineral supplement destination. With a little effort, this category could become a significant traffic driver. Instead of the usual 16 or 20 feet of vitamins tucked in a corner – brand-blocked and sorted alphabetically – retailers can offer a unique and engaging experience for their shoppers.

Getting started means focusing on some basics. There is no need to expand footage – yet. Most VMS shoppers are looking for information and education, and arguably the best place to offer that information is right at the shelf edge. There is no better way to communicate with a shopper at the point of decision, and a number of options are available to make the most of this very valuable real estate. Work with a reputable partner that offers the ability to maximize the shelf edge while providing the information your shoppers want.

Next, look at some merchandising alternatives. Rather than relying on the typical brand block tactic, try segmenting the section by need-state or condition. For example, group the bone and joint health products together as well as the heart and cardiovascular products.

Finally, start to connect the dots with shoppers to make VMS more than just pills and capsules. Alternative methods for getting your vitamins are being developed, creating a new category of “alternative absorption” products that are especially attractive to millennials and their growing families. Offer these as part of the standard selection of products, and don’t forget to keep the focus on education and information.

Creating a vitamin and mineral supplement destination needn’t be expensive or time-consuming with the right partner and a clear strategy. But be advised that once you’ve started, things will begin to happen in this category that will impact the store overall. Higher sales, a deeper connection to shoppers and a differentiated value proposition all await.

 Jeff Weidauer, is vice president of marketing and strategy for Vestcom International Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based provider of integrated shopper marketing solutions. He can be reached at [email protected], or visit

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