Wakefern Food: Efforts address range of customer needs

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Wakefern Food: Efforts address range of customer needs

By David Orgel - 04/14/2017

Wakefern Food Corp. continued to advance its health-and-wellness efforts over the past year, driven by a deep understanding of the needs of specific customer segments. One of those segments targeted by the operator of ShopRite supermarkets across six states are younger consumers.

“Millennials will face challenges from a healthcare standpoint,” said Chris Skyers, who was recently named VP of corporate merchandising following a stint as VP of health and beauty care. He spoke in January at the Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Millennials will be more interested in self-care. The grocery industry has an opportunity to take care of these shoppers. We have the food in our stores and the dietitians. So if you truly understand the customers, you’ll realize a great opportunity,” he said.

Wakefern’s dietitians support customers on a number of levels, he added. “Our dietitians provide services in store, and also prepare our associates for customer questions, such as about gluten-free. They provide education on nutrition for the community with free in-store consultations.”

In January the retailer-owned organization debuted a range of free services for shoppers, including support groups, dietitian services and health screenings. “Our programs are designed to educate, inform and inspire our shoppers to live their best lives,” said Natalie Menza-Crowe, director of ShopRite’s health and wellness department. “We’ve brought together our team of in-store dietitians, chefs and pharmacists to create a comprehensive assortment of health-and-wellness services, and we’re proud to offer them to our customers.” Among the offerings are weight-management classes, in-store dietitian services, culinary workshop classes, diabetes classes — held in partnership with ShopRite Pharmacy — and cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

Wakefern is known for its progressive diabetes programs, including a partnership effort with Johnson & Johnson that was spotlighted last year in a best practices report from Global Market Development Center. In the program, the retailer and supplier created an in-store display format to address the needs of this group.

“We have found that diabetes patients have so many health issues that, if there’s one place in the store they can go to and find testing supplies, wound care, skin care, oral health and nutritional products, it is a huge benefit to them,” says Chris Jobes director of health and wellness at Johnson & Johnson Consumer. “What we did was bring together all the primary items that deliver solutions. The results have been incredibly positive.”

The collaborative partnership to address the needs of diabetics was central to the program’s success, said Skyers. “Our stores are community stores, but we need manufacturer partners, and Johnson & Johnson has the insights, the people and talent to help us serve those communities better,” he said.

ShopRite’s website underscores health and wellness with a dedicated section. It features information on kids’ health, meal ideas, health events listings, dietitian services and cooking classes, and features a blog that addresses recipes and health trends.

In one blog post, Girlene Coughlin, a registered dietitian at the ShopRite in Kearny, N.J., offered a “Wellness Wednesday” tip. “Did you know that children who help their parents prepare healthy meals are more prone to try more foods and subsequently like a larger variety of fruits and vegetables?” she wrote.

Wakefern’s private-label efforts also are embracing wellness, including the launch of a line called “Wholesome Pantry,” which is free of some 110 ingredients, ranging from artificial colors to preservatives.