How Food as Medicine Drives Value at Kroger

Grocer focused on a household-centered approach
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
The grocery chain's retail health focus is on household and community centered care.

The Kroger Co. says it is driving value and sales by helping people live healthier lives.

Kroger Clinical Program Development Manager Olivia Kinney explained how at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando, Fla., last week.

"We drive value every day as seen by many statistics shared out in the community," Kinney said. "A recent statistic I saw is that pharmacy shoppers can drive up to four times more sales in the grocery store. And so I'm not advocating that you go buy up a pharmacy and bring it into your existing setting right now, but I am showing you that we inherently drive volume and sales just by building those connections in the community."

Kinney was joined at FMI Midwinter by Kroger Director of Nutrition Bridget Wojciak on a panel titled "Driving Value by Framing the Grocery Store as a Destination for Health and Well-being."

Wojciak said the grocery chain's retail health focus is on household centered care and community centered care.

"The nutrition needs of the household are uniquely different than the needs of the individual," Wojciak said. "Typically, in the health care setting that you would see today, they treat the patient, they treat the individual, you hear the term patient centered care and that's wonderful. But at retail, we have a very unique understanding of household centered care and can unity centered care. There are very few other places that can meet everything that you need in terms of quality of care, from how much can you afford, how do you prefer to shop? What are the foods that you to eat?"

Kinney elaborated on the concept of driving value with a robust retail health program.

"The concept of value itself is really changing," Kinney said. "Think about how fragmented health care is in the United States today, everybody has a differing opinion on how we can do that and how we can improve health care spending. It's over $4 trillion in 2020. And so the concept of health care, we need to shift away from volume and shift towards value. But the definition of value is so varied."

She said that the company doesn't mind filling fewer prescriptions if it is fulfilling its mission of improving people's lives.

"At Kroger Health, our president is extremely passionate about the concept that we should fill fewer prescriptions despite being a store built on sales. And so the concept of us wanting to fill fewer prescriptions for people is not a scary one to us because that is living out our purpose of helping people live a healthier life. And we believe that fewer prescriptions and coordinating your trips to the store drives value in a new way."

This week Kroger Health, the health care division of The Kroger Co., published the results of a retail health study showing that in-aisle teaching with a Kroger Health registered dietitian significantly increased adherence to a heart-healthy dietary pattern compared to traditional nutrition counseling alone. Adherence was further improved when in-aisle teaching was paired with education on how to use online shopping technologies, including grocery delivery service, the Kroger app and website, and OptUP, Kroger Health's industry-leading nutrition rating system to simplify and track healthier shopping.

"SuperWIN is probably the most scientifically rigorous study of a comprehensive healthcare intervention ever conducted with the retail industry," said Dylan Steen, MD, of the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease at the UC College of Medicine. "In terms of purchasing data, retailers have been collecting these data for decades. These data are now progressively being linked to nutrition information and thus could be used by dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and physicians to provide the best, individualized guidance to patients."

Serving 60 million households annually nationwide through a digital shopping experience, and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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