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Retailers Embrace New Health Incentives

Retailers Embrace New Health Incentives

It’s hard to believe there’s still something new to say about health and wellness initiatives for consumers.

After years of program launches in the public and private sectors, it seems everyone — including the White House — is trumpeting initiatives that foster healthy habits.

Retailers are deeply involved in this, yet it turns out they haven’t maxed out on their potential. We’re seeing a gradual stepping up and widening of their efforts.

On the one hand, there are new and innovative takes on what I’d call “traditional” promotions. Whole Foods just partnered with PBS Kids to offer in-store and online resources for children’s health. Harmons, Salt Lake City, installed “healthy checkout lanes” that replace candy with fruit and other healthier items. Big Y hosted an obesity prevention event that included a NuVal scavenger hunt geared to nutrition education.

There’s also a newer twist. We’re seeing more programs that include direct incentives or rewards. Tops Friendly Markets unveiled a partnership with Independent Health insurance company to provide store credits for produce purchases, with the rewards topping out at $500 for a single plan and $1,000 for a family plan. Spartan Stores, meanwhile, unveiled a cooking and nutrition program for kids that includes price-related offers on groceries and general merchandise sent to shoppers who sign up for the program.


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These retailers are on to something about the benefits of financial incentives. Maybe they’ve been watching the value strategies of the natural food retailers themselves. Whole Foods recently said it’s “thrilled” with the first few months of results at a new store in Detroit, which emphasizes a new value effort in perishables. And of course, Sprouts Farmers Market has been riding to new levels of growth with a unique value strategy for a health and wellness retailer.

These moves recognize the conventional wisdom has changed. For a while many observers thought that a health and wellness positioning could shield retailers from the need to focus on price. Now everyone’s realizing price still matters big time.

SN recently reported on a consumer survey from Ipsos Public Affairs that found 73% of consumers identified price as one of their top two priorities in selecting their primary grocery store, while only 37% pointed to nutrition.

Consumers have clearly spoken. They want more of a reward for good nutrition than just the possibility of good health.

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