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Tops Makes a List for Healthy Shoppers

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In their quest to help shoppers eat healthier, retailers have educated, enticed, guided (with stars) and entertained. They’ve done everything they can to point consumers in the right direction, and to encourage them along the way, but still there’s an unsettling level of confusion out there in the aisles.

Perhaps it’s time someone just told them what to buy?

picture-2.pngThat’s what Tops Markets is betting on. The upstate New York chain recently partnered with a local diet and diabetes education firm on a subscription service called Savings for Health that each week sends members recipes and a corresponding grocery list. It’s like getting a weekly update from your dietitian, and to sweeten the deal Tops also offers discounts on many of the recommended items.

Propel Health, the company that comes up with the week’s shopping list and recipes, says it’s out to prove eating healthy doesn’t mean breaking the bank. That’s a winning contention these days, with retailers slashing prices on healthy items across the store in order to motivate their cash-strapped customers. Indeed, price is king right now, and Propel builds upon that with its service, where the $20 annual fee can be easily offset by the savings it provides.

Moreover, the Tops/Propel promotion says something about how consumers approach health these days, and about the role they’d like supermarkets to play. Retailers want to educate their shoppers on how to eat well, and they want to provide them with all the tools and products to make that happen. But all the choices out there can prove as frustrating as they can be liberating. Left to choose between natural and organic, probiotics and gluten free, sugar and stevia, many of them throw up their arms and say, “just tell me what to eat!”

That’s exactly what Savings for Health does, and its success or failure could provide clues as to how the retailer’s role as health advisor will evolve in the coming years. Supermarkets have forged relationships with their customers through their pharmacies, walk-in clinics and other point-of-service areas, and many are building on this with tie-ins to food and beverage departments. This is much less sexy than colorful banners and farm stands — but linking to a specific condition sends a clearer message to shoppers.

Savings for Health, operating as a sort of food pharmacist, is another step in this journey from retailer to health service provider, and it’s probably the right prescription for so many out there who are shopping for some additional clarity.

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