The golden growth opportunity for U.S. drugstores


The golden growth opportunity for U.S. drugstores

76% of consumers are not satisfied with the health food selection in drugstores

The self-care movement is playing a key role in reshaping health care in a way that drug store retailers and manufacturers can’t afford to ignore. Recent data from The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey, in collaboration with NielsenIQ, shows that 18% of Americans reported health as a top concern, next only to the economy (22%) and immigration (19%). With the threat of rising health care costs, consumers are prioritizing wellness and taking a more active role in managing their own health.

Today’s health-minded consumers are looking beyond medicine to manage their health—and opting for healthier food is a big part of this mindset. Increasingly for drugstores, the way to consumer wallets is through their diet. However, NielsenIQ’s 2019 Health Care study showed that only 24% of consumers are satisfied with the health food selection in drugstores, compared with 75% who expressed satisfaction of the health foods sold in traditional grocery stores. Within the drugstore market, there’s a golden opportunity for growth.  

The first step is understanding the diet trends currently at play. How well versed are you in today’s diverse diet landscape? Here is a quick snapshot.

What America is eating..and not eating in 2019

Overall, consumers care about what’s in and what’s not in their diets. In 2019, consumers are making more room on their plate for fresh fruits, vegetables, and wholesome foods—driven by diets such as Whole30, Keto, and vegetarianism—and fresh produce is currently seeing the second-highest absolute dollar growth of $2.4 billion. While fresh produce sales at the drugstore level is limited, manufacturers are making efforts to include more fruit and vegetables in their products in order to appeal to consumers looking to increase their consumption of healthier, better-for-you foods and beverages. That said, small convenience items containing fresh produce are viable and smart options for drug retail. Snackable produce is a trend we called out in 2017. Back then, this “on-the-go” snacking sub-category was a $1.1 billion area with a compound annual growth rate of more than 10% every year between 2012 and 2016 within grocery retail.

In terms of this year’s healthy food trends, diets that are low in sugar, low carb, and low in sodium are trending—meaning an increasing number of consumers are cutting out sugar, highly processed carbs, and sodium-rich foods. Popular diets like the Paleo diet or caveman diet require consumers to eat foods presumed to have been available to humans during the Paleolithic era—basically anything that looks like it came from a factory is off the table. While cholesterol-friendly diets like Dash and low-glycemic diets are both losing dollar sales and momentum, NielsenIQ data shows that there has been a notable increase of consumers following Keto, microbiotic, and paleo-style diets.

Out of this year’s trending diets, the Keto Diet is the one to watch.

What is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.  It Involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. The Keto diet typically includes meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados, and plenty of low-carb veggies.  Consumers on the Keto diet aim to avoid carb-based foods like grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, candy, juice, and even most fruits. There are several versions of the keto diet. The standard (SKD) version is the most researched and most recommended. 

Who is the Keto Shopper?

According to NielsenIQ data, 46% of consumers who are following the Keto Diet are living in households with incomes over $100,000; 87% of Keto shoppers are Caucasian; and the majority of followers (42%) are from households of two members. 

With this broad understanding of the diets that are driving consumer food preferences, it’s just as important to gain visibility into what food attributes are driving purchase decisions at the shelf.
While many of the top attributes mirror the leading diet trends—like low sugar, low fat, high protein, and low sodium—NielsenIQ’s 2019 Health Care study showed that consumers also value attributes like heart health (58%), natural (51%), free of artificial ingredients (50%), and vitamin/mineral presence (47%). 

For drugstores, the way to consumers’ wallets is through their diet. There is a need for drugstore retailers to reimagine their health food selection and an opportunity to do a better job in addressing the specific needs of today’s dietary needs and trends. Understand the trends, identify the attributes and ingredients that are driving growth in your business, and recognize that health and wellness is not a one-size-fits-all statement. As consumers take a more proactive interest in their own health and wellness, it’ll be crucial for drugstore players to understand the need across all—inclusive of generations, income, ailments, and diets.

This article originally appeared in Chain Drug Review.