Healthy products are a micro market must-have. New and existing micro market accounts ask operators daily to include healthy items in order to support employee wellness, enhance corporate culture and create positive change. The challenge for operators is finding products that meet the definition of healthy, as it is unique to every individual. Here are some best practices to use when a customer requests a healthy micro market makeover.
1. Ask for requirements and examples.
Healthy means different things to different people. That is true for decision makers at micro market locations as well. When they ask for healthy items, the operator needs to follow up with additional questions. “When you say healthy, what do you mean? Better-for-you items that have less calories than traditional products? All natural, organic items? Does your company have a committee or nutritionist that has a set standard?”
If the decision maker is vague, offer examples. It is best to already have a reference list of better-for-you options that are available in the convenience services channel.
If the location requests specialty options, then the operator needs to help the decision maker understand how it would work. For example, those types of items will carry a higher price than the decision maker would see in the retail store due to the additional effort needed in procuring them from a new distributor, adding them to the warehouse, managing the stale dates and coordinating direct delivery to the location. All this adds up. If employees don’t buy the item, that will impact sales and might decrease the viability of having a micro market at that location, causing it to be removed. The location should understand the impact the request could have.
2. Use FitPick and similar programs.
If the location doesn’t have a set healthy standard, there are options that already exist that operators can use. The national convenience services association, NAMA, has a tailor-made healthy offering program called FitPick. Fitpick.org has a product list that includes snacks and food items that have met the FitPick limits on calories, fat, sugar and sodium. Since FitPick is a national program, it has credibility any micro market operator can capitalize on.
FitPick is not the only program out there. Canteen offers Choice Plus and USConnect provides its members The Right Choice... For a Healthier You™. It is also possible to create one internally. No matter what program is used, advertise that products qualify by meeting certain standards and then mark the products to ensure end users know which options are the healthy ones.
3. Follow the trends.
Consumers love to eat what’s trending and that is true in the healthy segment as well. Protein is popular thanks to keto and paleo diets. Think jerkies, nuts, cheese and protein combos as well as baked snacks high in whole grains and protein.
Don’t forget about brand extensions. Many consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers offer snack packs of their most popular treats, such as the award-winning OREO Thins. This is a great addition to the healthier segment as it provides a treat in a smaller package or with minimal calories.
4. Offer a subsidy option.
With the right program, the request for healthy items can be an opportunity instead of a burden. For example, an operator can agree that providing healthy items is a great idea, and then suggest that the program would work even better if the location were willing to subsidize the offerings. This could mean putting a certain dollar amount in each of the employee micro market accounts to encourage purchasing if the market will carry only healthy items. Alternatively, a subsidy might mean the location pays the operator for a percentage of the healthy item costs, making those items less expensive for the employees. This will help the location create the change in employee health and culture that initially drove the request. It also helps the operator become a stronger partner with the location and not a commodity.
5. Look at claims made by the manufacturer and use them.
CPG companies put a lot of thought into labels and packaging. Operators can use this to their advantage in choosing new healthy items to sell. Look for claims on packaging that resonate with consumers. Are the ingredients on the front of the label? Are there key words that fit into the hot eating trends?
Beyond the label, there are often clues in the description. Look for key words, such as “great for schools” or “provides essential vitamins and minerals for workout recovery,” which can be signals this product would fit into the healthy category of micro markets.
Healthy is not a fad. It is a constant request that micro market operators are trying to meet in micro markets. It is also an evolving idea with no broadly accepted definition. It’s important then that operators ask for specific requirements. If none exist, operators can offer national or locally created healthy programs along with products that meet those standards. Healthy requests allow an opportunity for the operator to partner with the location asking for subsidies that will better create the wellness-focused environment the location seeks. Finally, operators should stay on top of the trends within healthy and piggy-back off of the advertising, packaging language and brand extensions that fit into the location’s definition of healthy. It’s the best way to keep profits up and keep servicing micro market locations.