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LIVE FROM FMI: Health = Horsepower


Work with your competitors for a common goal? That’s something retailers would rarely consider doing, but it’s exactly how some wellness leaders say grocers can help build a better community.

Two Hy-Vee executives delivered that message as part of their seminar, “The Power of Partnerships: Total Store Collaboration for Healthy People, Healthy Profits,” Thursday morning at the 2014 FMI Connect at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Iowa-based grocery chain Hy-Vee melds its three strategic initiatives – customer experience, health & wellness, and culinary experience – toward its goal of being a wellness leader. Sheila Laing, Hy-Vee’s senior VP of health and wellness solutions, explained that the grocer’s H&W department encompasses dietitians, pharmacy, clinic partners, wellness-related services, employee health and its Healthmarket of natural and organic products.

Keys to sustainable change in wellness include making healthier choices easier and taking H&W initiatives “beyond the walls of the store.” As Helen Eddy, assistant VP of pharmacy services, noted, “It’s the right thing to do for our communities, for our employees and for our customers.”

Partners for Health

Hy-Vee partners with nonprofits, state agencies, schools, businesses, health systems, insurance companies and, interestingly, competitors. The latter relationship has been crucial to Hy-Vee’s participation in Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, an effort launched in 2011 aimed at improving the quality of life for all Iowans. This has included the Blue Zones Project, which certified grocery stores, restaurants and worksites as sources of healthful foods, Eddy explained.

In fact, Hy-Vee has issued joint press releases with competing grocers to announce new Blue Zones, Eddy noted. “It’s not about us – it’s about the community,” she said.

The initiatives have encouraged not only greater interest in healthy eating, but also fitness, through greater participation in fitness events like statewide 1K walks and school contests to win visits by Hy-Vee’s wellness bus.

Further, partnering with branded health services like the Mayo Clinic to provide flu shots and other clinic services within stores – even those historically administered by stores themselves – enhances sales by drawing more people into stores to partake of those services.

It also presents an opportunity for grocers to partner with clinics on broader wellness events to include pharmacists and store chefs. “You have to customize these clinics [to offer] what’s best for the community,” Laing said.

Responding to an audience question about how Hy-Vee determines if a store’s sales level decides whether it rates a dietitian, Eddy noted that Hy-Vee’s goal is to have all its stores served by dietitians and is currently only eight stores short. While Hy-Vee has UPC codes to track wellness services, their ROI goes beyond basic sales to long-term relationships with customers by advising them on better health.

“You’ve changed a person forever and you’ve got a customer forever,” Eddy said. “How do you put a price tag on that?”

Building on the wellness theme, communications consultant Stephen Cauley offered ideas in his Thursday afternoon seminar, “Creating & Maintaining Buzz Around Your Health & Wellness Program.”

The health and wellness trend is here to stay at supermarkets, Cauley pointed out, citing data showing nearly 70 percent of Americans are actively trying to eat a healthy diet.

“Health and wellness marketing is clearly a business opportunity for many,” Cauley noted, singling out trends for grocers to leverage such as healthy snacking, fancy proteins, ancient grains, enhanced vegetables and local food.

Grocers that help their shoppers make healthier choices are adding consumer value and generating additional sales; meanwhile, helping associates do the same potentially reduced employee health care costs.

Ways to generate buzz include targeted shelf signage, recipes and menu planning, store tours, cooking demos and classes, health screenings, flu shots and fitness events. According to a recent FMI survey, 80 percent of grocers have health and wellness programs, of which more than half focus on both consumers and employees. They promote the programs primarily online via website and social media, and also by e-mail and in-store signage, the latter of which research indicates is most successful in boosting wellness initiatives, though Cauley urged stepping up social media engagement.

Horsing Around

Many show attendees wound up their Thursday at Wrigley Field, where Anheuser-Busch hosted a reception including food, drink and a visit by the Budweiser Clydesdales to the historic home of the Chicago Cubs. The Clydesdales hauled the iconic Budweiser wagon to deliver beer to several neighborhood taverns hosting a pub crawl following the reception.

See more photos from the A-B party at Wrigley Field along with my daily coverage of FMI Connect on Twitter @jimdudlicek


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