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Hy-Vee Creates Online Health Forum

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The topic of vegetarian foods has emerged as the surprise hottest topic on Hy-Vee's new online Health & Wellness Forum, introduced just several weeks ago. According to officials with the chain, the latest element in the retailer's expanding portfolio of whole health tools opens up new possibilities for customers looking for more timely — and more varied — responses to their questions.

"Prior to this, it wasn't as immediate. They could write in, and we would be forwarded the email to answer, or they could call and we would call them back," said Julie McMillan, one of Hy-Vee's health and wellness supervisors, told SN. “This allows everyone to see the question when it's posted, plus everyone can see the responses — from us and other customers."

Topics are divided into four sections pertaining to all aspects of wellness and lifestyle, and include gluten-free, heart health, exercise and organic foods. The vegetarian section garnered more than 825 views and prompted three active discussions with weeks of the forum's introduction on Hy-Vee's website.

The retailer, winner of the 2008 SN Whole Health Enterprise Award for excellence in health and wellness marketing, already employs more than 100 store-level dietitians to assist customers. The new forum is administered by four of the nutrition experts, while fellow customers are invited to participate in the online dialogue as well. As a result of the interest in vegetarianism, the chain plans to add more cooking demos and in-store discussions on the topic, McMillan said.