Hy-Vee Explores Blue Zones

A Hy-Vee store is highlighting foods consumed in so-called Blue Zones — places in the world where inhabitants live the longest, happiest lives.

ALBERT LEA, Minn. — The Hy-Vee [3] here is highlighting foods consumed in so-called Blue Zones — places in the world where inhabitants live the longest, happiest lives.

With Blue Zone shelf tags, cooking demos, a designated checkout lane and other consumer outreach, the retailer touts foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, store dietitian Amy Pleimling told SN.

It all started when renowned author and Blue Zone explorer Dan Buettner brought the AARP/Blue Zone Vitality Project to the community in 2009. Since then Hy-Vee has played a part in increasing the life expectancy of residents by 3.2 years on average. Its latest effort involved replacing sugary snacks in a single checkout lane with Blue Zone foods.

Since its January launch, soy nuts have emerged as a favorite of shoppers (sales spiked 60%), while fresh apples and oranges are among the least popular, said Pleimling. But it's not because consumers don't like fruit. Now that they've been repositioned in the lane, sales of Hy-Vee brand no-sugar added dried peaches have shot up 63%. Humdrum sales of carrots, yogurt, skim milk and water sold from a Pepsi-branded case are also improving now that a Blue Zone sign reminds shoppers not to miss its contents.

"Normally you don't look in there unless you're going for a pop," Pleimling said.

Launching the lane was a challenge since contracts entitle certain brands to the space. One of them was Pepsi, which agreed to share half of its refrigerated case. Its bottled water is among the Blue Zones lane's cold offerings.

Hy-Vee created special scan codes so that it could sell Fiber One bars and cups of apple and pomegranate sauce, individually. Spoons are positioned nearby for on-the-go enjoyment. Though the healthy lane is still in pilot phase, Pleimling is hopeful it will expand to more Hy-Vee stores.

"Sales are going to be the ultimate decider, but it's an image Hy-Vee strives to portray," she said.