Kroger OptUp
INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES

Making wellness simple is complex

New initiatives from Kroger and Hy-Vee take innovative approaches

BY David Orgel

Wellness is a particularly challenging topic for consumers. They desperately want it, but often don’t know how to get it.

That’s because it’s confusing and complex. Just when a health fact seems like the real thing, it gets debunked. It’s hard to navigate through all the “expert” advice. At retail, when a question is posed to an in-store associate, the answer isn’t always well-informed. Too often store layouts segregate products by aisle rather than bringing together cross-merchandised wellness solutions.

Make no mistake, retailers across channels have markedly improved their wellness strategies. However, shopper expectations continue to advance, making it hard to keep up.

Retailers, though, understand the high stakes. It will be no surprise to informed readers that this country is in the midst of a health care crisis marked by obesity, chronic health conditions, mounting costs, and frustrated consumers taking measures into their own hands through self-care strategies.

How can the industry make wellness easier and more meaningful for shoppers? The answer is to focus on simplifying, curating, educating and personalizing.

Two efforts introduced this summer by high-profile retailers underscore the point.

First, Hy-Vee unveiled a new health-focused, small-store format that builds on strategies it has pursued in other stores.

The goal of this format, called Hy-Vee HealthMarket, is to make wellness convenient by curating a range of important solutions under one roof. The first store opened in West Des Moines, Iowa at the beginning of August. This outlet, at about 15,000 square feet, seems just the right size to present a curated experience. It offers healthy lifestyle and personal care items, including fresh foods and grocery. The store contains a full-service pharmacy, health clinic, hearing aid center, sports nutrition area, all-natural bath and beauty products, and a hydration station featuring nitro coffee and kombucha. There’s even an adjacent 3,000-square-foot Orangetheory Fitness Center.

According to an interview in the Des Moines Register, Hy-Vee anticipates eventually opening between 50 to 60 of these HealthMarket outlets, starting with two more next year.

Hy-Vee has already built a solid health profile across its markets, and these strategies take it to a new level.

Another important but quite different initiative was recently launched by Kroger called OptUP, it’s a data-driven wellness app built with the goal of encouraging simplicity and informed choices for shoppers.

The app combines solutions to a range of consumer wellness challenges into a single package. It provides nutrition guidance and boosts convenience.

As explained in a Kroger announcement, key features include scoring groceries based on nationally-recognized dietary guidelines (with input from Kroger dietitians); providing personalized product recommendations; presenting a “household OptUp score;” offering tools to scan and search products for nutrition information and product alternatives; and bringing the capability to add better-for-you options to a digital cart for curbside pickup or delivery.

The goal is a streamlined experience, but it likely came about through a lot of complex work behind the scenes. Kroger’s Yael Cosset, chief digital officer, pointed out that the app resulted from “a collaboration among our health, tech, digital and 84.51°” teams. The latter is a Kroger unit that leverages technology and customer data.

The examples of Hy-Vee and Kroger are important ones. Both of these retailers have managed to simplify and enhance wellness experiences for shoppers.
It’s true these retailers are already best-in-class for health strategies, but that doesn’t place such innovations off limits to others. The ultimate payoffs are more accessible wellness for consumers, and, presumably, improved loyalty and sales for retailers.


David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker who was the longtime chief editor and content leader of Supermarket News. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s column, click here.

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