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Retailers Burnishing Image for Affordable Health

Retailers Burnishing Image for Affordable Health

Retailers are finding new ways to broaden their health and wellness efforts. On the one hand, they continue to roll out new products that carry dual messages of health and affordability, such as the recent expansion of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's Eatwell product line, which the chain gears for customers seeking “more affordable, nutritious options.”

But retailers are also taking it beyond the shelves with related initiatives, such as subscription wellness plans, that build on these messages without being completely product-focused.

One of the latest examples is from Hy-Vee, which is offering a discount for a wellness program to encourage shoppers to sign up. That program is Live Healthy America, a non-profit initiative that helps members adopt healthy habits, including with exercise and nutrition, by providing a range of resources. Hy-Vee provides a coupon for $5 off the $20 registration fee.

In another supermarket effort, Tops Friendly Markets has rolled out a new health information program to some of its locations in partnership with consultant Propel Health. The initiative, called “Savings for Health,” which costs $19.95 a year for customers to join, provides “access to information on food and menu planning options” through a password-protected website that also offers recipes, coupons and a weekly healthy shopping list, according to an article on Drug Store News' website.

These kinds of promotions help align supermarkets with an affordable health image. But be warned, grocers don't have this territory all to themselves.

Consider that Sam's Club has just partnered with Dallas-based U.S. Preventive Medicine to offer that organization's personalized health management program, the “Prevention Plan,” for a $99 annual subscription. This effort is geared to the club's small-business owner members who don't offer health insurance, and for their families and employees. Most of these small companies don't yet have comprehensive wellness programs.

There's a halo around retailers who conduct these kinds of programs. The initiatives ensure that retailers will be viewed as providers of affordable health solutions across the store.

Meanwhile, retailers can achieve some of these benefits even with simpler programs. Walgreen Co. has an effort to provide vouchers for free flu shots to uninsured and underserved people in some 15 U.S. markets, through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This initiative makes available more than $10 million of vouchers for shots. It's not a comprehensive wellness effort, but it serves an important health function at a price that's hard to beat — free.

Supermarkets are wise to embrace affordable health efforts, but they have a lot of competition for this. Good ideas tend to spread quickly across retailers and channels. All of which should help supermarkets step up their games in 2011.