Healthy eating may be its own reward, but Wal-Mart and Humana are adding a kicker.
In what is being described as a unique new effort to help consumers save money on healthy food choices, the Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and HumanaVitality, a subsidiary of health insurance provider Humana, have started a program offering 5% savings on products like fresh fruits and vegetables.
Low-fat dairy products and other items that qualify for Wal-Mart’s “Great For You” icon fill out the program.
Set to begin Oct. 15, it represents the first national program in which a major retailer and health care company have partnered to create incentives for people to eat better with savings on healthful foods, according to a news release from Wal-Mart.
More than 1 million HumanaVitality members who shop at Wal-Mart will be eligible, according to the release.
The program will feature a “Vitality HealthyFood” card for 5% savings on “Great for You” items. The 5% savings will be loaded as credits on the member’s “Vitality HealthyFood” card within five business days, for use on their next trip to the store, according to the release.
“By offering affordable, healthier foods, we will help make our customers healthier and reduce costs to our healthcare system as a whole,” John Agwunobi, president of health and wellness for Wal-Mart U.S., said in the release. “We want to be our customers’ wellness destination — the retailer that provides them with affordable ways to fight for their health.”
Industry observers were pleased with the concept, though curious who would foot the bill for it.
“Incentivizing people to eat healthier foods is a great idea, and I don’t think there is a better place to do it than in the grocery store and in partnership with a health care company,” Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation said in an e-mail.
Tracy Fox, president of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, LLC, Washington, D.C., said the initiative promises positive results on a number of levels, both for customers and the companies involved.
“Wal-Mart benefits from selling more of those items and gaining new customers, and Humana benefits by being able to promote this as a perk for potential clients and, ultimately, hopefully, in seeing reduced health care costs related to healthy behaviors among their participants,” Fox said in an e-mail.
Ed Odron, owner of Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting, Stockton, Calif., said he likes the idea of savings on healthy food that Wal-Mart and Humana have devised and sees value in expanding it.
“I think it is great, but why not make it more global — something like AARP or anybody over 55?” Odron said.
Danit Marquardt, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the companies will not disclose financial details of the agreement.
However, she said Wal-Mart and Humana are committed to making affordable, healthy food a priority for American families.