As everyone in our industry is all too aware, obesity, health and wellness continue to grab headlines. Just about every day, survey after survey, study after study, analyzes, concludes and calculates just how much fatter our nation's citizens are becoming each year. More studies warn about the serious implications of the problem for everyone if we don't figure out a way to stop our collectively growing spread.
Operators with school accounts are quite familiar with the issue and have been forced to address it by offering a wider array of "better-for-you" products or risk losing the account. But many operators serving workplace accounts might think the issue doesn't affect them, concluding — "I don't have school accounts; I don't need to worry about that." The truth is that the focus on health and wellness is becoming important to all accounts — from offices and health care facilities to government locations and manufacturing sites — and operators interested in succeeding need to learn how to help them address this complex issue.
Automatic Merchandiser, in its "White Paper for Vending" published one year ago, identified getting up to speed on health and nutrition as one of the action steps needed for the vending industry to meet the needs of a changing consumer and new market forces. The article noted that while marketing healthy products is challenging, the demographic momentum of aging baby boomers and continued media focus on obesity are powerful forces.
Fortunately, the National Automatic Merchandising Association also recognized the importance of health and wellness issues and the threat it could potentially pose to our industry if not addressed, and created the "Balanced for Life" program. Balanced for Life (BFL) is a national health and wellness initiative designed to help combat rising obesity rates by communicating messages about the importance of a balanced diet and physical exercise.
Although the campaign initially focused on tools to help operators with school accounts, the campaign has since expanded into the workplace.
Operators wondering how to address the issue and looking for help might not be aware of the many resources available through the campaign, but from dietitians who can help create "better-for-you" menus to downloadable template wellness materials, NAMA has something that can help operators partner on health and wellness issues with their accounts.
And make no mistake: for a host of reasons, employers and consumers alike are focused more on health and wellness than ever, and simply sitting back and hoping the issue somehow just goes away could wind up putting you out of business.
SCHOOL ACCOUNTS ARE JUST THE BEGINNING
Most operators with school accounts are familiar with the importance of delivering health and wellness products and messages because the issue has been around in the school market for several years. Those that didn't introduce "better-for-you" products voluntarily have, in many instances, been forced to do so legislatively.
Now is an especially good time to share the many Balanced for Life campaign elements with schools because of a 2004 federal law effective this year requiring all schools across the country participating in subsidized federal school meal programs to develop policies that promote the health and wellness of students.
The federally-mandated school wellness programs are designed to motivate schools to create new ways to address the issue, and of particular note to operators is the requirement in the legislation that schools document how they will communicate nutrition and exercise messages to the students. In most cases school administrators have no clear idea of exactly how they can do this, or where they will find this information. Operators who present the BFL tools available will truly be seen as a valuable business partner working to be part of the solution, and will create enormous goodwill by effectively helping their accounts solve this problem.