SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Hannaford Supermarkets' involvement in Bath Iron Works' new wellness program is one of a growing number of grassroots health partnerships the retailer is exploring.
While it is not actively seeking out partnerships in the private sector, it will consider most community requests for assistance in enabling healthy behaviors, according to Julie Greene, Hannaford's healthy living director.
Hannaford is uniquely positioned for such alliances because of its strong focus on health, Greene said. In addition to employing registered dietitians, it runs the Guiding Stars nutrition navigation system that rates prepared meals, snacks, salad bar and grab-and-go items with zero to three stars based on their nutritional value. One star means good nutritional value; two stars, better nutritional value; and three stars, the best nutritional value.
The benefit of health partnerships is that they help make Hannaford more relevant to shoppers looking to make dietary changes for the better, said Greene.
“Many people lack ideas or inspiration needed to make a healthy meal,” she said. “We want to help break down those barriers.”
Several health organizations, educational institutions and private businesses have approached Hannaford looking to help their constituents learn about nutrition, according to Greene. She declined to identify the businesses, but confirmed two of them: Bath Iron Works and the Capital District Physicians' Health Plan.
The BIW partnership involves BIW's just-launched Health Passport, a customized wellness program focused on physical and financial health. Some 5,600 BIW employees and their dependents — amounting to 10,000 people — are eligible to participate in the program.
Based in Bath, Maine, BIW is a division of General Dynamics that builds Navy warships and other vessels.
Once participants complete various health-oriented steps, or tasks, they receive stamps in their passport. For instance, they'll get a stamp if they join a gym, get an annual physical or a six-month dental checkup.
They also get a stamp if they buy Guiding Stars items, take a free nutrition class or watch a Hannaford DVD featuring a store tour.
“It made sense to find a supermarket partner because that's the place where people develop new health habits,” Chris McCarthy, BIW's manager of integrated health services, told SN.
McCarthy said Hannaford was a good fit because of the success of Guiding Stars.
“We view Guiding Stars as a proven program,” he said.
Participants are rewarded once they obtain the required number of stamps in each level. About 50 local businesses are offering rewards, including free tickets to Bates College theater, 20% off martial arts classes, a free month at Curves fitness club for woman and $5 off green fees at a local golf club.
At Hannaford, rewards include coupons on products that earn one to three Guiding Stars, as well as Hannaford gift cards.
Health Passport participants who complete the required number of levels are also entered in a quarterly BIW drawing for a $2,500 travel certificate, and the annual grand prize: a car.
“The ultimate goal was to create an incentive model to get people to think of healthy options,” said McCarthy.
The program is one way to address the nation's rising obesity rates and health care costs, McCarthy added.
“For too long, we as a culture have ignored the importance of nutrition as a path toward health,” he said. “That realization is striking a lot of businesses as employers look for ways to mitigate rising health care costs.”
By partnering with BIW's Health Passport, Hannaford hopes to create more awareness of its products, services and information that support a healthy lifestyle, according to Greene.
“By meeting the needs of these shoppers, we are not only supporting the health of our communities, we are supporting the health of our business,” she said.
Greene was impressed with the Passport program because it encourages healthy behaviors with incentives, not penalties.
“What's great about this program is that if you buy a food that's indulgent or a treat, you won't be penalized,” she said. “It's all on the upside.”
In addition to the BIW partnership, Hannaford teamed with Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, Albany, N.Y., last year for a health incentive pilot program tied to Guiding Stars.
Eligible CDPHP members earn $1 in “Life Points” for every four Guiding Stars-rated products purchased, and up to $50 worth of points per family per year. They can redeem their Life Points rewards for Guiding Stars purchases, or gift cards and merchandise at other retailers.
Members can verify how many Guiding Stars products they've purchased by registering at myHannaford, an online information source accessible via www.hannaford.com .
While Hannaford views such partnerships as a way to pique curiosity about healthy food, it is selective about which programs it will endorse, because it is leery of programs that may be too strict or penalty-driven.
“We don't want to be seen as a company that goes into people's cupboards and waves its fingers at those who stock up on unhealthy food,” she said. “We're not here to dictate — only to help people make more positive choices.”
In doing so, Hannaford hopes to create a point of differentiation from its competitors and build shopper loyalty.
“Our shoppers want to live a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “We hope that by helping them do so, they'll prefer to shop at Hannaford.”