Voluntary dietary changes are having a dramatic impact on the grocery industry, and consumers are paying more attention to what they eat and buy. According to Nielsen data, 22% of households in America are restricting sugar intake, and 52% are actively avoiding artificial sweeteners.

Raley’s Shelf Guide Transformation

Raley’s has redesigned their aisles entirely, allowing shoppers to “vote out” sugary products from the stores. Last November, the retailer moved all cold cereals with 25% or more total calories from added sugar to the bottom shelf. Brands that consumers used to see at eye level, which were easy to reach and put in the grocery cart, lost their position to less sweet alternatives. Earlier in 2018, Raley’s also removed conventional candy from the checkout area of their stores to combat added sugar.

Redesigned candy stand featuring Raley’s Shelf Guide labels

Their latest addition to nutrition awareness is their attribute marking system. Raley’s “Shelf Guide” provides a growing number of symbols that denote different qualities of food on their shelves. Though it started with eight types of markers, the grocer aims to list over 21 attributes in its stores for various diets and health restrictions.


Small selection of the labels found throughout Raley’s stores

Apart from labelling, the retailer has also expanded its private label selection to include more options for their customers. It now has three tiers of private label products, mirroring the three main Raley’s banners. Splitting products into Raley’s Brand, Raley’s Purely Made, and Nob Hill Trading Co. makes it easier for consumers to shop according to their preferences.

Raley’s three private label tiers

Raley’s Brand is the retailer’s base private label, offering quality similar to most non-organic products. Comparable private labels include Walmart’s Great Value and Target’s Market Pantry.

The second-tier private label is Purely Made, offering products with higher quality. These products are comparable to Target’s Simply Balanced line. Purely Made is free of over 100 ingredients, making it a direct response to other clean eating trends in grocery. For Raley’s chicken, this includes being antibiotic-free and increasing the number of free range options available.

Nob Hill Trading Co. is the premium private label from Raley’s that shares the name of its Nob Hill banner. In addition to most of the benefits of the Purely Made tier, the products in this line are comparable to top-shelf food products from stores like Earth Fare and Whole Foods. The selection ranges from kitchen staples like olive oil and spices to entertaining foods such as breads, cheeses, and dips.

Slow and Steady with Trader Joe’s

Whereas Raley’s has devoted their efforts to rapid transformation, other grocers like Trader Joe’s have been building trust with their customers slowly and quietly. Some of the changes in Trader Joe’s stores include the following:

  • For most prepared foods in the store, a vegetarian or vegan alternative is available.
  • Dozens of shopping lists dedicated to buying vegan foods at Trader Joe’s are available online.
  • Gluten-free shoppers have more options than ever before, from baked goods to oats to frozen foods.
The newest addition to frozen mac & cheese: a gluten-free variety

In addition to these silent changes, Trader Joe’s publishes three dietary guides that help consumers navigate their stores: a gluten-free, kosher, and vegan list. These guides are provided both online and in select locations, making it easy for shoppers to pick and choose products throughout the stores. Here is an excerpt from one of their dietary shopping guides:


Selection from Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free dietary guide

The retailer has taken extra steps to accommodate for a variety of diets, but we found that its in-store signage is still lacking in most locations. For shoppers on a specific diet, research prior to entering the store is still necessary.

Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here

One retailer that has flown under the radar with its health initiatives is Whole Foods. Because of its status as a USDA Certified Organic grocer, its selection has always leaned towards healthy food choices. However, the retailer re-focused its efforts by launching the Health Starts Here campaign in 2010.

Endcap sign advertising the Four Pillars of Healthy Eating

The campaign consists of labels throughout the store promoting healthy eating choices. Whole Foods categorizes its Health Starts Here products from “Four Pillars of Healthy Eating,” which the retailer views as the way to achieve the greatest health benefits regardless of diet. The retailer defines these four pillars as the following:

Whole Food:

We believe that food in its purest state – without artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives – is the best tasting and most nutritious food available.

Plant-Strong:

No matter what type of diet you follow – including those with dairy, meat or seafood – reconfigure your plate so the majority of each meal is created from an abundance of raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Healthy Fats:

Get healthy fats from whole plant sources, such as nuts, seeds and avocados and work to eliminate (or minimize) extracted oils and processed fats.

Nutrient Dense:

Choose foods that are rich in micronutrients when compared to their total caloric content. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. For guidance on this, look for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) scoring system in our stores.

Whole Foods Health Starts Here campaign

This early and thorough campaign promoting healthy eating with shelf labels convinced many competitors to develop similar features. Now, Amazon-owned Whole Foods has grown to incorporate Health Starts Here into the store as a whole. Shopping guides and recipes for different diets are available through the Whole Foods website, encouraging shoppers to interact with their products outside of the store.

For more information on the effects of attributes and diets on consumer spending, you can read the accompanying blog post here. Ken Ouimet, CEO of Engage3, also sat down to speak with Frank Scorpiniti, CEO of health and wellness store Earth Fare, to discuss retail and health integration — watch the video here.

David Esparza

David Esparza

Marketing Specialist at Engage3