2019 Retail Tech Trends: health & wellness

When we predicted five trends to shape retail in 2019, it came as no surprise that one of these was health and wellness. It has been a popular theme for some time, and consumers are increasingly looking for more ways to weave it into their weekly shops.

Three-quarters of shoppers would like more information from food and grocery companies to inspire them to make healthier choices. Showing the benefits of a product on the packet is no longer enough: consumers are asking for more imaginative ideas.

However, whilst most shoppers aspire to eat and live well, these aspirations only sometimes translate into action. There are barriers to taking the next step, and retailers are stepping in to remove these barriers and make healthier lives easier to achieve. This is why stores such as Watsons, in Singapore, are partnering with health companies. Now it is possible to shop and speak to health experts at the same time: considering health in the round rather than just one aspect of it.

What ‘health and wellness’ actually means to consumers

Interest in health is on the rise, with 85% of shoppers saying they would like to improve their diet in some way, and many people actively using online sources such as blogs to find out more about healthy eating. Coop Danmark has plugged into this trend by introducing intelligent recipes. Its online grocery website offers a variety of specialty shops that cater to those following specific diets for health or lifestyle choices. This segmentation can make shopping for these products more engaging, and helps shoppers find products quickly.

Yet despite a common interest in health and wellness, the reasons for pursuing a healthier diet are varied. Generally, rising obesity levels, government campaigns, and an ageing population help to keep both health and wellbeing in general on people’s radar. However younger generations also associate them with physical attractiveness, with 42% claiming their motivation to be as much about looking good as feeling good.

The role of retailers and suppliers

From our engagement with shoppers, we’re aware that people are much happier being advised about what to buy and eat to enable them to make their own decisions, rather than feeling pushed into dietary changes. Retailers recognise this, and are supporting consumers as they navigate the options on offer, whilst working to address the different health priorities of different shoppers.

Most food and drink companies agree they have an important role to play in supporting consumer health, and have shown their commitment through steps such as providing more nutrition information on products, adjusting recipes to make them healthier, promoting food more carefully and introducing new, healthier options. Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, for example, has added a new nutritionally-focused functionality to its ah.nl website to offer loyal customers insight into the nutritional values of their products.

Increasingly brands and retailers are using nudge behaviour techniques as well, to encourage shoppers towards more mindful decisions and a healthier lifestyle. This might mean a change to where products are positioned on shelves or creating recipe cards for nutritious but budget meals. In the case of Waitrose this has led to in-store health services, so that people can undergo a full health assessment after their shop. Loblaw has even taken the step of opening a separate ‘wellness-focused’ store in Toronto with dieticians on hand to offer targeted health advice.

What does the future hold?

Tomorrow’s shoppers will be at least as motivated as today’s to eat more healthily, and they’ll have the benefit of more help to make this easier to achieve. To a large extent this will mean new or more targeted technology that people can use to improve their sense of wellness.

A recent example is Migros in Turkey, which offers shoppers personalised discounts on food groups they appear not to have been purchasing and so may be lacking. In this way there is a clear, and personalised, message about balanced nutrition, alongside hints and tips for drinking more water or increasing physical activity.

Waitrose is taking this concept of customer wellbeing even further by exploring the effects of DNA-personalisation food choice in pre-diabetic individuals. This could lead to an app that advises shoppers what food and drink to buy based on their genetic make-up.

2018 saw great change in the retail sector, and there is no reason to suggest the pace will alter in 2019. Shoppers are able to choose products and tailor their diets like never before, and they can access a range of new apps and devices as they do so. The smart retailers and suppliers are responding to this and adapting their offer to meet demand.

Toby Pickard is IGD’s senior analyst specialising in innovations and trends and the impact they could have on the industry. He supports IGD’s channel events, research and training programmes, and he is also regularly commissioned to deliver presentations and training to major companies within the sector. Read more of his analysis of 2019’s trends on IGD’s Retail Analysis site.