Praised for its leadership in bringing health and wellness to mainstream consumers, Hy-Vee has been named the recipient of the 2008 Supermarket News Whole Health Enterprise Award.
The company was recognized for its wealth of wellness programs, product offerings and professional guidance aimed at both employees and customers. The magazine cited in-store dietitians, innovative health benefits, weight-loss programs, an expansive HealthMarket department and an upcoming nutritional scoring program as some of the innovative ways in which wellness is spread to a broader population.
"Everyone who walks into a Hy-Vee store today is witnessing a retailer changing to meet the country's new health priorities," wrote Bob Vosburg, editor of Whole Health, a quarterly supplement to Supermarket News. With a mission of "making lives easier, healthier and happier," the positive response from both employees and customers "speaks to Hy-Vee's ability as a company to engender trust."
The heart of the health focus is the company's 125 in-store dietitians, a number that is growing and far exceeds other chains. Their presence on the grocery floor to answer questions and offer guidance gives confidence to shoppers looking to make good nutritional decisions. The dietitians' visibility extends into the community as well as they visit schools and participate in community health events. Medical doctors refer patients to Hy-Vee to consult with a dietitian on a particular dietary need.
"Our whole culture is about health, and we want to be the place you shop for health," said Sheila Laing, assistant vice president, employee benefits. "Employees want to do everything they can to help the customer. They also want to do what they can to help themselves."
Employees are encouraged to participate in Live Healthy Hy-Vee, a weight-loss program, and Healthy Lifestyles, an optional benefit program that takes a holistic approach to wellness. A new internal magazine called Hy! was launched this year as a communication tool dedicated to work-life balance.
Customers can take advantage of weight-loss programs, sign up for classes in a community room, stock up on natural and organic products in the ever-growing HealthMarket department, and monitor what their family eats through NuVal, the nutritional scoring program soon to be unveiled. Redesigned pharmacies are more inviting and less clinical, making customers more comfortable in seeking counsel.
The magazine pointed to other highlights that led to the Whole Health Enterprise Award, including Seasons, a consumer magazine that bridges the communication of health and wellness messages from store to home. Efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the company's operations were also mentioned, including building two LEED-certified stores, one in Madison, Wis., and one in Des Moines, Iowa. It also called the success of the Hy-Vee Triathlon an "iconic public event that demonstrates just how serious [the company] is about healthy lifestyles."
Two years ago, the company was named Retailer of the Year, an honor also bestowed by Supermarket News. That award is given for general excellence, but even then Hy-Vee's leadership in health and wellness was cited as a contributing factor.
That's no coincidence, said Hy-Vee CEO Ric Jurgens; customers know they are in good hands. "I think our job is to provide as much information as we can, and as consumers want, to help them make decisions. Food is such an important factor in determining our customers' health. Companies that can make a difference should make a difference. We are such a company and we take that role seriously."