Jurgens Helms Hy-Vee's Holistic Approach
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Anyone who wanted to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Olympic triathlon competition had to pass through this city.
That's because it is the headquarters for Hy-Vee, sponsor of the annual Hy-Vee Triathlon, which served as the qualifying race for the last Olympics.
Hy-Vee's sponsorship of such an elite athletic event reflects the regional supermarket chain's commitment to being at the forefront of health and wellness, through not only its sponsorship activities but also through its merchandising and in the health care it provides for its workers.
“The health care crisis can in part be averted by improving health,” said Ric Jurgens, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the 225-store chain, in a recent interview with a local newspaper.
Hy-Vee seeks to encourage its workers to embrace wellness through programs such as Healthier Lifestyles, an initiative rolled out last year that encourages proactive lifestyle management. It involves one-on-one consultations with pharmacists and dietitians.
Hy-Vee also embraces wellness in its merchandising and customer communication, taking the approach that it should be a resource for health and wellness information. It has been long been a leader in rolling out natural and organic products, and was one of the first supermarket chains to test the NuVal nutrient-labeling system, which it has since rolled out.
“Food is such an important factor in determining our customers' health,” Jurgens told SN Whole Health last year. “I think our job is to provide as much information as we can, and as consumers want, to help them make the decisions.”
Hy-Vee also deploys more than 100 dietitians throughout the chain who help patients make decisions about how to shop to suit their health needs, and help the chain's numerous health-outreach programs. Its pharmacists are also well trained to interact with customers about the various health- and wellness-related activities that the chain may be conducting, according to Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.
“They invest time, effort and energy, both in terms of getting their senior executives up to speed on the issues, and in terms of getting individuals at store level to understand what's going on. They probably do that better than anyone else,” he said.