NATIONAL CHAIN: Safeway

Safeway's leadership role in wellness stems directly from the beliefs and actions of the chain's chief executive officer, Steven Burd. His ongoing, keen interest in controlling health care costs has fostered an atmosphere of innovative thinking, for customers and employees alike. Among the chain's more recent innovations is the FoodFlex program, which creates custom nutrition reports based on household

Safeway's leadership role in wellness stems directly from the beliefs and actions of the chain's chief executive officer, Steven Burd. His ongoing, keen interest in controlling health care costs has fostered an atmosphere of innovative thinking, for customers and employees alike. Among the chain's more recent innovations is the FoodFlex program, which creates custom nutrition reports based on household loyalty purchases. The system uses the information on customers' Safeway cards to deliver a nutritional analysis of their purchases at the store, rated against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended consumption levels of 25 nutrients and vitamins. It also allows customers to see the relative nutritional benefits of different products.

Earlier this year, Burd said the company hopes to tie the FoodFlex system into its employee health plan in 2009.

“If someone wants to opt in to demonstrate a nutritious lifestyle, I think we'll be the first company to grant [health plan] premium reductions for that,” he said.

The year also brought news that Safeway had converted its entire U.S. trucking fleet of more than 1,000 vehicles to cleaner-burning biodiesel fuel, making it one of the first major retailers in the country to do so. Company officials estimate the action will help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 75 million pounds annually — equal to taking nearly 7,500 passenger vehicles off the road each year.

Other green initiatives include the purchase of alternative energy, and a new emphasis on recycling.

And, in a move applauded by activists, Safeway adopted new animal welfare guidelines.