Healthy Holland & Barrett overhauls food & drink proposition.

Healthy Holland & Barrett overhauls food & drink proposition.

Health & wellness retailer Holland & Barrett is looking to boost its credentials in the grocery sector with a major overhaul of its food and drink offering that it hopes will fill a gap in the market for a range of foods that are both healthy and tasty.


The company is initially introducing 500 new food and drink lines to its stores throughout September in what is the first of three tranches of new products into the market over the next year. The first batch comprises 300 own-label and 200 branded items of which 70 are chilled and fresh, which represents a major move by H&B because it pitches it up against the major grocers.

However, the company is pointing to a differentiation in that all its products fill gaps in the market in hitting the underlying objective of fulfilling specific health & wellness criteria – that could be around allergens, intolerances, specific dietary requirements as well as healthier options. The plan is to be a destination for healthy options on the high street.

Lisa Tookey, commercial growth director at H&B, says: “We are not trying to be a grocer. We have taken out a lot of commodity products that you can buy at a grocer because that is not what we do. We are a destination for nutritional top-up.”

H&B had in recent years become recognised in the marketplace for its specialism in vitamins and supplements, but there had been recognition among management that it was missing the link between food and these vitamins.

To address this it has been building up the expertise internally to develop the grocery side of the business. As well as recruiting senior executives H&B has also hired a team of development chefs and brought on-board 50 new artisan suppliers to manufacture its own-label lines. It is now confident that it can deliver an “end-to-end” offer around food to sit alongside its vitamins and supplements. 

H&B hopes its bold move in the category will help it hit its target of low double-digit sales growth over the next financial year, especially as it recognises that food is a powerful footfall driver. The initial challenge to its move will involve it battling against the cost-of-living crisis that is putting pressure on any food ranges that fall into the premium camp. 

This contributed to the pressure on Planet Organic and prompted its collapse. It was bought out of administration by its founder in a slimmed down form following the closure of some stores. Meanwhile losses have increased at the seven stores of Whole Foods Market in the UK, which has led to it axing a line of its luxury products in favour of offering an expanded range of discounted items.

The overhaul of the grocery category comes under the banner of ‘Food that Loves You Back’ and comes after a difficult period for H&B with its connections to Russian investors severed and a debt restructuring completed that has now left it in a sufficiently healthy state to tackle the health & wellness end of the grocery sector.