Walmart forges new pathway to wellness, challenges others to follow

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is hoping to blaze a bold new trail down the path toward wellness in its healthy food discount partnership with HumanaVitality announced this morning, and the global retailer has challenged others to follow. 

"We think this effort is the beginning of a journey," John Agwunobi, president of health and wellness for Walmart U.S., told journalists during a press call held Wednesday morning. "Our hope is that others are inspired by this work, candidly. Other retailers. Other healthcare companies," he said. "My hope is it becomes a new way of doing business, a new way of helping the customer."

"The launch of the Vitality Healthy Food program with Walmart as our partner represents an important evolution in HumanaVitality as a solution," noted Joe Woods, CEO of HumanaVitality. HumanaVitality is a rewards program operated by healthcare company Humana through which members earn "Vitality Points for getting active, losing weight and eating healthier." The Vitality Points can be redeemed on more than 600,000 rewards, including movie tickets and merchandise, according to the program's website

So on the face of it, the program works much like a loyalty card/discount card program. HumanaVitality members who take advantage of the program are given a card, on which the 5% in savings on select products featuring Walmart's "Great for You" icon is placed for use on a future Walmart visit. One-third of Walmart's private label food products qualify for the "Great for You" icon. Another similarity to loyalty card programs: The Walmart/HumanaVitality partnership will yield actionable shopping metrics. "With [HumanaVitality's] large population, we've got a lot of opportunities to collect data and to understand how this is moving the needle or changing behaviors of individual shopping experiences. … We think a million members is an incredible starting point for us to learn a lot," Woods said. 

That seems counterintuitive for a retailer that stresses everyday low pricing. "This is exciting because it's a program that offers a benefit on top of [EDLP] through membership in HumanaVitality," said Andrea Thomas, SVP sustainability at Walmart. "We are all about saving people money so that they can live better," she said. "We feel that this program can become an inspiration for a lot of different relationships to look at ways that we can continue to offer incentives."

The initial program will be open to the more than 1 million HumanaVitality members. "Ultimately we believe that the role [of programs like this] will be to make the healthier choice the much more frequently chosen option," Agwunobi said. 

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