Kroger promos healthier eats with OptUp app, in-store nutrition techs

BY Michael Johnsen

Kroger has big plans this summer around the utilization of in-store nutrition experts and its newly launched OptUp healthy shopping app.

Colleen Lindholz, president of the Cincinnati-based chain’s pharmacy division and The Little Clinic, said the initiative is part of an app update that will help tie a better-health-through-food program into the interactive platforms consumers are already using to navigate their shopping experiences.

“This is all in an effort to support the vision and mission that Kroger has, which is to help people live healthier lives,” Lindholz told DSN at the recent National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting. “We’re trying to meet the customer where they are and where they want to be, whether that be in the store or digitally online.”

In stores, Kroger is piloting a program that will staff each supermarket with a nutrition technician through the agency Besomebody Paths. These “techs” will be engaging, customer-focused employees who will work to raise awareness around healthy food choices and the pair of licensed healthcare professionals — the dietitian and the pharmacist — who can help tie those healthier food choices into a comprehensive disease state management program. A total of 18 dietitians will be active across Kroger’s footprint, Lindholz said, one for each of its operating divisions.

Kroger also is building healthy food guidance into its OptUp shopping app, which launched on April 30. “OptUp takes the items you buy at Kroger on your Kroger Plus card and gives you a total [shopping cart] score that shows you how healthy your basket is,” Lindholz said. Each food item and its respective health value is loaded into the app, along with suggestions for healthier choices on similar products for their next shopping trip.

Kroger is employing an algorithm validated by the University of Cincinnati to score each item on a nutrition scale of 1-to-100. The corresponding suggestions are designed to take shoppers along their health journey at a more gradual pace. “We’re trying to help our customers make better food choices, but not go from A to Z overnight,” Lindholz said. “If I’m eating [cookies] for the last five years and that’s my snack, you’re not going to take me to broccoli or even grapes if [cookies] are what I love. What’s great about this app is it suggests items that are higher in nutrients, [but] not that much higher.”

All of this will lay the groundwork for Kroger’s future plans for its dietitians, pharmacists and the food side of its business under the “Wellness Your Way” platform. “Just like our Simple Truth brand has become a $2 billion brand, we want to tie wellness overall into one platform so it becomes seamless for our customers,” Lindholz said. “We’re working on a long-term predictive analytics tool and the power behind some of the big payers.”

Kroger did a soft launch of the platform in February and plans to introduce that platform in a meaningful way in 2019.


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