Putting wellness into hands of customers

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At least that's what retailer Whole Foods is banking on with its test run of "Wellness Clubs."

(THE NEWS: Whole Foods commences test run of Wellness Clubs. For the full story, click here)

And if the Whole Foods initiative proves successful, you can expect to see more of these consumer-directed health models to develop. The Whole Foods Market Wellness Club concept, which is being tested in five locations, is designed to help customers take their well-being to the next level through education, cooking, coaching and a support structure aimed at ensuring long-term success. Plus, members receive a 10% discount on a wide variety of healthy foods.

If the Whole Foods pilot works, it could suggest that Americans — at least wealthier shoppers who can afford to shop at Whole Foods — are willing to spend from their own pocket to stay healthy. The initiation and monthly fees will vary by location. The first Wellness Club opened Aug. 15 at the Dedham, Mass. Whole Foods and customers can buy into that club for a $199 one-time fee and a $45 per-month membership fee. In September, Whole Foods is planning to open Wellness Clubs in stores in Chicago and Oakland, Calif. In October, one is slated to open in New York and Princeton, N.J., in November.

As mentioned earlier, if the test concept is successful the industry can expect to see more consumer-directed health models develop.

Obviously, there are some models already in play (i.e., Hannaford's free dietitian-led nutrition classes across New England, ShopRite's onsite registered dietitians within select stores and RediClinic's new Weigh Forward medically-supervised weight-loss program) but there undoubtedly are additional opportunities on the horizon for more bundled, consumer-directed concepts.

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