Proving that its focus on health and wellness is more than just a marketing pose, Hy-Vee has rolled out a fit regimen of community events and programs.
Most notable of these was last month's Hy-Vee ITU World Cup triathlon, held in the retailer's hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. The race lured both elite and amateur racers from near and far, all vying for a cut of the $700,000 purse — the largest ever offered in a triathlon event.
That's no small investment for a retailer. However, it pays off in a big way by burnishing the company's reputation as a wellness destination in these increasingly health-conscious times.
“I was amazed at how much excitement and enthusiasm a triathlon generates,” said Ric Jurgens, Hy-Vee's chief executive officer, in a statement. “We believe that bringing an event like this to Des Moines is beneficial in many ways. One of the most important is that the triathlons, and all the associated activities, promote the concept of fitness and health. That's important to Hy-Vee, because the more fit we are, the more healthy we will be. And that's good for all of us.”
It also helps that the triathlon is one of the world's fastest growing sports, and that 68% of USA Triathlon members are in the 30- to 49-year age range — Hy-Vee's target demographic.
“We'll continue to be aggressive on the health front, and the triathlon especially was a way for us to get our healthy lifestyle message out there,” said spokeswoman Christine Friesleben.
Hy-Vee is also taking the fight to its front lines. In the past three years, the Midwestern chain has stocked its stores with close to 100 dietitians. These individuals do everything from walking the aisles with customers to spreading nutrition advice in local schools. To enhance that feeling of community, stores utilize sign-age and advertisements to connect people with a name and a face.
“Some of our dietitians have very aggressive programs,” said Friesleben. “They have newsletters, they have classes, they go out into the community and into the schools.”
Calling the shots from up top are three corporate dietitians. They head up every side of Hy-Vee's dietitian campaign, including hiring, training, scheduling programs, developing menus and more.
“We started by hiring the corporate dietitians, then through them we worked on a grass-roots staffing effort,” said Friesleben. “That's when this really exploded.”
Hy-Vee's goal has been to reach the century mark with its dietitians by the end of this year — something that it now appears the company could hit on cruise control.
“But that doesn't mean we're going to stop there,” explained Friesleben.
Fostering a sense of community is an increasingly important goal for Hy-Vee. There's been talk of offering in-store cooking classes and targeting children with more intensive, sustained wellness programs than are currently available. The company has already built special rooms in stores that are outfitted with a large kitchen's array of cooking gear. Customers can come in, buy their groceries and cook a meal.
“Whatever the community needs, that room is there for them,” said Friesleben.