The health care services at Ukrop's Super Markets rival those offered by many medical facilities.
Stores offer one-on-one nutrition counseling; screenings for glucose, osteoporosis and blood pressure; diabetes education; and classes keyed in to diet and nutrition trends. Flu shots and other immunizations are perhaps most in demand. Every year, the chain's pharmacists administer 35,000 flu shots alone, said John Beckner, director of pharmacy and health services. One store even offers vaccines for travelers.
Officials decided to make health and wellness services a priority around 1994, soon after Beckner came on board. The company believed an aggressive push into wellness programming could help the chain stand out in the market, Beckner said.
The company built private counseling rooms, called Wellness Centers, in or adjacent to the pharmacies. Pharmacists and dietitians use the office-like space to meet with shoppers for private consultations and screenings.
At Ukrop's biggest store, in West Richmond, Va., a physicians group leases space on the ground floor. Last spring, Ukrop's teamed up with the doctors to offer classes on women's health issues, including hormone replacement therapy.
Over the years, nutrition classes have covered low-carb diets and other topics reflecting the times. “We try to keep up with trends,” said Julie Bishop, manager of culinary and wellness trends.
The retailer intercepts shoppers on the main floor, too. Wellness sections are present in just about every store, whether a few aisles long or an entire stand-alone unit next to the supermarket itself. Store tours, which Ukrop's rolled out in the late 1980s, are still around, though their emphasis has changed. Today dietitians tell shoppers how they can get omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics into their diets.
Helping shoppers stay healthy can be good for business. Customers pay a nominal fee for many of the services, with immunizations delivering more profit than prescriptions. Beyond the revenue, though, the services probably attract new customers, said Beckner.
“Wellness and patient care are a way of life here,” he said. “It's something we've always done.”