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By Robert C. Post, PhD., MEd., MSc.

Food companies are striving to be a force for good and today many are developing products to accelerate wellness. That’s because consumers are prioritizing health consciousness as part of their everyday food choices, according to the IFIC Foundation 2019 Food and Health Survey. Price, taste and convenience are no longer the reigning factors. And, for many consumers, a food label alone is not sufficient to convey the information they seek to make a choice. Consumers are weighing a new set of factors and choosing food and beverage products that promote their health and wellness. To that end, food manufacturers must ensure that their business functions and product messaging convey integrity of brand, promotes transparency, and are messaged beyond the label to be appealing.

According to consumer survey research (Deloitte Food Value Equation Survey 2015, Deloitte Analysis; Center for Food Integrity, A Clear View of Transparency and How it Builds Trust, 2015), consumers are weighing lifestyle nutrition benefits at every life stage as part of their food decisions. Naturality and the simplicity of production methods, product formulations, and ingredient sourcing are also important factors. Additionally, the actions of a food company in making positive social impact are important – not only wellness programming for employees but also how companies support community wellness with sustainability practices, environmental stewardship, and fair trade. All of these efforts must be reflected in a transparent food philosophy to earn consumers’ trust in a brand and a food-focused wellness company.

With consumer values driving today’s food and beverage marketplace, more and more, modern food companies are recognizing the importance of establishing a brand identity that embraces health and wellness – products for the marketplace, programs for employees, and programs for the communities they operate in. When every aspect of a company is empowered with the know-how for helping consumers, customers, and employees make health-conscious, good lifestyle choices decisions, it just makes good business sense.

What is health and wellness? It’s an active process of becoming aware of and making choices that support a healthy and fulfilling life. Food companies can support a consumer’s ability to make positive choices by building a health and wellness focus into their corporate structure and enterprise values.  By addressing at least three dimensions, such as nutritional and physical wellbeing, social wellbeing, and environmental wellbeing, companies can support the trend towards sustainable and healthy food choices while building their customer base as a trusted entity providing positive choices.

Why is building a wellness focus important? According to a recent Forbes article entitled Emerging Brands Grabbing Share Of The Retail Wellness Market, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are faltering as they fail to meet consumers’ growing demand for healthier foods. Reporting that this demand for healthier options hindered growth in the past year, new research from the FMI Foundation also recently advised that, as consumer focus on health and wellness deepens, their understanding of the concept is also evolving and diversifying based on their life-stage and unique health circumstances – creating new and necessary marketing opportunities for retailers and brands that can offer more personalized solutions.

How can you build wellness into your brand? Building a wellness focus into your brand makes good sense. Not only is wellness a major platform of the future of food, it is an expectation of today’s consumer. But, developing a strategy that best positions your product against competitors is complicated. Further, companies must understand consumer demands and develop a responsive brand purpose and products that align with it. Products must fill a need and be conveyed in a market strategy that showcases the products’ science-supported benefits in a compelling and meaningful way. Simply put, consumers want to know “what’s in it for me”…literally.

Product development should adopt a multi-sector approach that combines knowledge of the food industry; the federal regulatory environment and policy landscape, including public health and trade; and mining research and tracking trends. These experiences must be combined with an understanding of how to integrate health and wellness into a brand, enterprise mission and business plans, while creating a culture of health and wellness within the company and in the communities in which it operates and does business.

The FoodTrition Solutions Wellness Works© concept builds the capabilities that food companies need to meet consumer wellness-seeking trends by linking the best research on health and wellness benefits to support product and process innovation, corporate communications, employee programs, and community outreach. As the owner of FoodTrition Solutions, LLC, and an independent consultant with EAS, I use my 25-plus-years of multi-sector experience as a leader in the food industry, academia, and federal regulatory and public health policy agencies, to help food companies define and promote health and wellness within a company’s culture.

The FoodTrition Solutions Wellness Works© means establishing a corporate food philosophy that guides the work of R&D, product innovation, and marketing, with criteria and standards that promote creativity for product and process innovation to result in better-for-you products that differentiate the brand in the marketplace. It involves designing a corporate Wellness Works guidebook with the guardrails tailored to assure conformance with regulatory requirements for labeling, marketing and advertising, ingredient and packaging sourcing and procurement, and food safety. Adopting this wellness focus requires establishing access to and analysis of food, nutrition and health research on health benefits for your products, which link to product and process innovation, and corporate employee wellness program needs. Finally, a wellness brand is benefited by forming and maintaining an external health and wellness expert advisory council. Such a council helps a company assess health and consumer behavior trends, adapt complex research to the individualized needs of the organization and the communities served, and act as liaisons for building networks with health and healthcare communities. These are essential components for assuring a food-focused wellness path to marketplace success. FoodTrition Solutions Wellness Works© brings a food company’s wellness story to life.

As your company works to meet consumer demand through the development of health and wellness focused products and business structure, remember doing good is a northstar goal. Another goal is doing good under the regulatory construct of FDA, USDA, and aligning with Federal dietary guidance. Choosing a consultant with demonstratable knowledge and skills to help your company develop a holistic and creative approach to your wellness-focused brand will allow you to place your efforts where you wish – ensuring the integrity of your vision is fulfilled.

Additional Reading:

(http://www.sjsu.edu/wellness/dimensions_defined/https://www.indstate.edu/human-resources/wellness/eight-dimensions). (https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2018/02/20/emerging-brands-grabbing-share-of-the-retail-wellness-market/#79006aa54173). (https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2019/01/23/Consumers-evolving-understanding-of-wellness-creates-marketing-opportunities-for-retailers-brands).

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