Modern global nutritional problems derive from food excess as well as food shortage. Traditionally a first-world problem, obesity is now spreading to developing countries. Individual countries and companies are responding to the Sustainable Development Goal to improve nutrition. One unique employee cafeteria has sparked a huge movement to improve nutrition in Japan. The cafeteria is owned by Tanita, a leading global manufacturer of precision electronic scales and health-monitoring devices, and illustrates how the firm is using its renowned measurement expertise to develop total health services as a comprehensive health solutions company.
Tanita began manufacturing bathroom scales in 1959, as Japan began to experience rapid growth. People’s incomes were rising, most families started to take baths at home, and bathroom scales gained popularity as people became increasingly health conscious. In 1978, Tanita developed Japan’s first digital scales, and in 1992 developed the first scales capable of analyzing body fat just by someone standing on them, followed by many other industry-leading products. Today, Tanita boasts the No.1 market share in Japan for home precision body fat scales and body composition analyzers.
New business boosts branding and sustainable corporate growth
The published series of employee cafeteria recipes was a best seller, selling 5.42 million copies. Tanita started opening public cafeterias offering identical meals to its employee cafeteria. The first was opened in an office district to encourage nearby businesspeople to incorporate the healthy menus as part of a consistent daily routine for maximum benefit. Regular cafeteria goers get to use state-of-the-art body composition analyzers for free, and receive personal advice on meals and exercise from registered nutritionists. The healthy menus and unique services resonated strongly with the public. The Tanita brand name became synonymous with health, which in turn has helped improve the company’s branding and strengthen competitiveness in the health monitoring business, as well.
From health measurement to health building
Today, Tanita focuses on developing comprehensive health-promotion services using digitally linked health-monitoring devices. It is hard to change people’s behavior simply by measuring body conditions, however advanced the precision device. The Tanita Health Program stores data measured by its analyzers, such as daily calorie consumption, body composition and blood pressure, on Internet-linked dedicated servers. Changes in a user’s physical condition can be visualized and checked via PC or smartphone. Medical experts can also use the data to offer health guidance. This system was originally developed for Tanita employees; since its introduction, the company says annual employee medical expenses have decreased by approximately 9 percent and the ratio of employees with appropriate BMI (18.5-25.0) has increased by 5 percent. Since 2014, the system has been customized to suit individual customers including companies, organizations and municipalities, and over 100 systems implemented.
Right now, the major benefits of Tanita’s health program are controlled medical expenses at appropriate levels, and improvement in the ratio of employees with appropriate BMI. The company is now considering ways to assess the program’s health-promotion benefits in terms of increased employee productivity and effective management. If it can achieve that, the health program will likely transform from a single employee welfare program into an indisputable cost-effective investment for all companies, everywhere.