Friday, August 31, 2012

Dieticians in supermarkets help consumers make changes

Sometimes the right type of information at the right time and place can really assist consumers in changing their habits and lifestyles. This New York Times article reports on the work of dieticians in supermarkets across the USA, who assist shoppers who want to improve their health or learn how to shop and cook for specific conditions such as gluten intolerance. Dietitians give in-store consultations and store tours with customers, hold cooking classes, prepare take-home meals e.g. for dieters, take biometric screenings of customers and staff, give presentations in schools, businesses and civic events, work with merchandisers, help set up community gardens, assess products for nutritional value and provide in-store information to explain nutrional information on packaging. The service helps consumers to acheive their health goals and the supermarket chain consider the scheme invaluable to their business model. It is well known that providing generic information to the population about what they "should" do to live more healthily and sustainably is largely unsuccessful; this scheme is an example of how specific, timely, tailored, practical guidance from a trusted expert can enable real positive change (and the goals of eating healthily and maintaining healthy body weight are very relevant for sustainability too - see "Obesity as a sustainable consumption issue" for more info). This is also a great model for how businesses can help lead the shift towards healthy and sustainable lifestyles, as part of a successful business model.

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