Wakefern Food Corp. plans to move quickly to add blood-sugar testing as one of the health and wellness services it offers at its ShopRite stores, Jonathan Thacker, VP, pharmacy, for the member-owned cooperative, said Tuesday.
Discussing the impact of the company’s work with diabetics during a session at FMI Connect in Chicago, Thacker said the result of Wakefern’s efforts to combine work by in-store pharmacists and dietitians with outside physician care has helped diabetic customers maintain healthier lifestyles, including a 22% decline in blood-sugar levels and increased adherence to taking medications.
Blood-sugar testing is currently done by doctors outside the stores, he noted, “but we’re moving quickly to bring that testing to the point-of-sale at the stores.”
Wakefern has been offering a constantly expanding level of health and wellness at ShopRite stores since 2006, when it began hiring registered dietitians to work with pharmacists as part of its “Live Right with ShopRite” program, Natalie Menza, manager of health and wellness, said.
The cooperative has dietitians at about 115 of its 321 stores, “and we’re still growing,” she said. “It’s something that differentiates us and helps customers eat healthier.”
According to Melanie Dworkin, the company’s retail dietitian supervisor, all services in its four core Live Right program are free. The core programs include a six-week weight loss program; a smoking cessation plan; an effort to get children to try new foods and eat healthier; and a culinary nutrition program, of which the work with diabetic patients is a part.
As part of its health and wellness effort, Dworkin said, dietitians spend time in the store aisles chatting with customers “to drill down and understand their individual needs so we can develop specific programs for them beyond the core programs.
“It’s an effort to provide customers with specialized services because nutrition is not the same for everyone, so we work to personalize the experience.”
Asked about the business benefits of the program, Thacker said it creates customer loyalty “because we provide complete solutions for each person and take action. They learn to eat better, which creates loyalty and shows that we care about the communities we serve — and it’s also the right thing to do.”
According to Menza, the primary purpose of the Live Right program is “to promote health and wellness so people can eat well and be happy. We focus on educating people through workshops and recipe centers on social media to help people prepare healthier meals at home.”
The company also strives to help customers make better buying decisions at store level, she added. “The supermarket is a sea of items with different claims, which can make it difficult even for a dietitian. So we help people determine what each product is trying to communicate.”
As part of the Live Right program, pharmacists and dietitians go out into the communities ShopRite serves to form partnerships with doctors’ offices, hospitals and senior centers, she said.
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