Walmart Bows Healthier Food Program
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has engaged in what it calls the first national partnership between a major retailer and a health care company to help shoppers save money on better-for-you foods and improve their overall health. Starting Oct. 15, more than 1.5 million members of HumanaVitality, a subsidiary of Louisville, Ky.-based health care company Humana, will be able to get 5 percent savings on products that qualify for Walmart’s “Great For You” icon, among them fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy items.
This program extends efforts begun by Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart in 2011 when it committed to making healthier food affordable and accessible, in collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Price is an important factor in incentivizing wellness in America,” acknowledged John Agwunobi, president of health and wellness at Walmart U.S. “By offering affordable, healthier foods, we will help make our customers healthier and reduce costs to our health care system as a whole. This represents preventative care in its purest form. We want to be our customers’ wellness destination -- the retailer that provides them with affordable ways to fight for their health.”
At a Sept. 19 press conference, Agwunobi described the initiative as “helping Mom fight for the health of her family,” and added that the company hoped to inspire others through “a new way of doing business [and] helping customers.”
“The ‘Vitality HealthyFood’ program with Walmart represents a new way we can decrease America’s health care bill,” affirmed Joe Woods, CEO of Chicago-based HumanaVitality, a joint venture between Humana and Discovery Holdings Ltd. “In a recent survey of our members, 84 percent said that a savings program would motivate them to purchase healthier foods. We will be aggressively communicating this program to more than 600,000 hospitals and physicians, as well as 60,000 insurance brokers to ensure as many members as possible can benefit from it.”
Created with the input of public- and private-sector food and nutrition experts, as well as top health organizations, Walmart’s Great For You icon is designed to help customers quickly find healthier food items on shelf. Items bearing the icon must undergo a stringent two-step nutrition criteria process. The icon is currently available in Walmart produce sections and will appear on packages of the company’s Great Value and Marketside products this fall.
“Americans have told us they are trying to eat better and need help making healthier food choices,” noted Walmart U.S. SVP of sustainability Andrea Thomas. “Our Great for You icon helps customers find those choices, and this program represents a new model for how we can make those choices even more affordable. We will continue to make affordable healthier food a priority so American families don’t have to choose between food that is good for them and food they can afford.”
Thomas stressed at the press conference that for the shoppers who aren’t members of HumanaVitality, Walmart strives to get the lowest everyday prices for the items it carries, including better-for-you products.
The Vitality HealthyFood program will roll out to all Walmart stores. After taking a brief HumanaVitality health assessment, members will receive a Vitality HealthyFood card enabling them to receive the 5 percent savings. When a member shops for groceries at Walmart, the discount will be loaded as credits to the member’s card within five business days for use on a subsequent shopping trip.
Available initially to HumanaVitality's 1.5 million-plus members, the program is expected to expand to additional members early next year. At the press conference, Woods referred to the currently eligible membership as “a good starting point.”
Both Walmart and HumanaVitality declined to disclose details of their business arrangement at the press conference.
Walmart operates more than 10,300 retail units under 69 banners in 27 countries.