Will Kroger’s new app make customers healthier than those who shop at rivals?

Discussion
Source: Kroger
Jul 18, 2018
George Anderson

Earlier this week, Kroger debuted OptUP, a new mobile application designed to put nutritional information in the hands of shoppers and assist them in making the right food choices for themselves and their families.

The app’s consumer-friendly features include:

  • “Scoring” grocery products using established, nationally-recognized dietary guidelines;
  • Product scanning and search functions to discover nutritional facts for products and to receive alternative options;
  • Personalized product recommendations;
  • Household OptUP scores.

Kroger’s OptUP product scores are based on a nationally-recognized dietary standard with input from the grocer’s team of registered dietitians. Products are scored in a range between one and 100.

Those products with a score of 71 and up (green category) are lower in saturated fat, sodium, sugar and calories while being higher in positive attributes, such as fiber, protein, fruit/vegetable or nut content. Items with a score between 36 and 70 fall into the yellow category, while those between one and 35 are red. Kroger recommends that customers check out with at least 50 percent of their market baskets falling into the green category.

The grocer also tracks purchases over an eight-week period to let customers see their OptUP scores on a range of zero to 1,000. Kroger says scores of 600 or higher indicate that customers are making good nutritional purchasing choices.

“OptUP is a collaboration among our health, tech, digital, and 84.51° teams,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer. “The data-driven app creates a more transparent and educational experience for our customers, continuing our commitment to help Americans shop, eat, and live healthier on their terms.”

Kroger plans to continue adding features and more personalization to the app going forward. The chain’s customers may download it through the App Store and Google Play store.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How popular do you expect Kroger’s new OptUP app to be with the grocer’s customers? How might the app help Kroger better understand its customers? Do you see an app like this becoming table stakes for customer-facing technology within grocery retailing?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Kroger's app, which keys in on a popular consumer trend, is an excellent example of brick-and-mortar stores bridging the online and offline worlds."
"I personally applaud Kroger’s efforts to offer “better for you” guidance and I believe it will resonate with shoppers."
"Kroger might find out how few shoppers there are that are deeply concerned with the health level of foods."

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19 Comments on "Will Kroger’s new app make customers healthier than those who shop at rivals?"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

This won’t be very popular. There will be those who are very serious about their diets and have plenty of time to devote to that effort — they might love this. This competes directly with the need to shop quickly and efficiently — my bet is that quick wins out over healthy. Kroger might find out how few shoppers there are that are deeply concerned with the health level of foods. While that is good learning, it’s hardly a breakthrough.

Richard Layman
Guest
1 year 2 months ago
My first professional job was for a nutrition policy advocacy group. The information-driven are but a small segment of the food and health market. One of my responsibilities was managing a nutrition software analysis program. I had the idea to build it into a platform, but was ahead of my time (things like licensing cookbooks, etc.) and it was the wrong environment to expect my advocate bosses to understand and accept. That being said, while I think this comment is insightful, like “Amazon Prime,” this product could be developed into a broader health/food/nutrition platform as well, with broader connections into nutrition and health, links with RDs (Kroger isn’t known for this, unlike Hy-Vee, ShopRite, Martin’s, etc.), “nudge” type programs with regard to weight loss, etc. For example, it could be linked to pharmacy and medication adherence, dealing with food-related chronic conditions like diabetes, etc. It has the potential to be brilliant were it to move to that kind of environment. That being said, I think Kroger has lots of what I call “stranded best practice”… Read more »
Bob Amster
BrainTrust

The app certainly appeals to those customers who prize healthful eating. It may or may not resonate with the rest of the customer base. It is not table stakes for all grocery but is certainly to be emulated.

Jon Polin
BrainTrust

Kudos to Kroger for giving their customers a tool to live healthier lives. Kroger will certainly get smart from watching whether and how their customers use this app. I’ve been a fan of a similar app — Fooducate — for a long time, so this app itself is not breakthrough, but I do like how this app ties to and rates actual purchases, even retroactively for eight weeks. Kroger continues to separate themselves from the competitive pack with their frequent releases of new technology offerings.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

There are multiple apps that do approximately the same thing as OptUP. None are unique to one grocery chain. Those will take care of the shoppers who are so inclined to be this diligent about their purchases. For the rest, it is a meaningless tool that will just get in the way of a fast and convenient trip to the grocery store.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

This app will make it easier to shop for those who already are predisposed to healthy eating. It will affirm much of what they already know. For those not already predisposed to healthy eating, this will be a long, slow haul. They already “know” they should eat healthier, but they just don’t. And for some, addicted to both their phone and unhealthy food, maybe this is the tool that will get their attention and enable change. I love the idea, but I am guessing that the app will not be an overnight sensation. Hang in there Kroger. You are doing a good deed!

Susan Viamari
BrainTrust

Even though an estimated 95 percent of CPG purchases are still made in brick-and-mortar outlets, digital interactions are influencing 77 percent of retail decisions. Kroger’s app, which also happens to key in on a hugely popular consumer trend–self-care/wellness, is an excellent example of brick-and-mortar stores bridging the online and offline world, and we will increasingly see programs that drive connections between the online and offline worlds. These programs will help consumers by providing knowledge and convenience, but they will also help retailers by increasing touchpoints and providing opportunities for influential messaging.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Susan – I think that increasing touchpoints and providing opportunities for influential messaging would most likely kill this app rather than it just being irrelevant. Why would anyone use it if Kroger uses it for messaging when there are other apps that do the same thing without the intrusion?

Susan Viamari
BrainTrust

Thanks for your perspectives. Certainly appreciated. Intrusion is certainly not going to have a positive impact. However, research has shown that consumers don’t mind and even participate in exchanges that add value to their shopping journey. By providing highly targeted and relevant knowledge and information, retailers and brands become partners in the journey, rather than an intrusion or annoyance.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

I really do like the concept but, from a business standpoint, I wonder if it will lead to smaller market baskets although maybe higher margins (those healthy things to eat seem to cost more). Restaurants showing calorie counts must have some experience in terms of the sales trend for those really tasty but really high-calorie content items. Maybe an informed consumer doesn’t equate to “good for business” in this case.

Frank Riso
BrainTrust

I do expect the app to be popular at the onset but sooner or later it will die out. It is very difficult to change one’s likes and dislikes when it comes to shopping for food. I expect those who use the app to fall into one category of customer, and that may help Kroger know a few of their customers better.

It is a start as far as customer facing technology is concerned but there are better apps available today for customers wanting to eat healthier. One drawback to the app is that it assumes everyone who uses the app will only shop at Kroger and that is normally not the case.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Ok, I agree that there are many customers who will not be interested in utilizing this app — those that either have no issues with health or weight, or those that basically don’t care. However, companies like Weight Watchers and others have demonstrated that customers who have issues become totally absorbed disciples and partners; with counting points, calories, living the life or whatever. And that is a big part of our population. I believe this app will be welcomed with open hands. And this obvious desire of Kroger to help with health will create a new heart-share from their customers — not bad to have. I also think they will learn much about items purchased by these customers that fall off the healthy grid. Overall, I think that many customers will love this app!

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

While I’m not optimistic that Kroger’s OptUP app will become widely accepted and used, I believe this brings real value to the shopper and will become popular with a segment (albeit small) of Kroger’s customer base that is health conscious. Kroger will certainly gather more insight about this customer segment, allowing them to present offers and cater to their food interests. I foresee a future opportunity to link dietary and food choices to healthcare benefits through lower insurance rates and pharmaceuticals. As the traditional lines of demarcation among retail verticals continue to erode (e.g. grocery, drug, restaurant, and “pop-ups”), cross-marketing and merchandising opportunities will continue to flourish.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Although many of my esteemed RetailWire colleagues are suggesting lackluster uptake on this new app, I personally applaud Kroger’s efforts to offer “better for you” guidance and I believe it will resonate with shoppers. However, to remain relevant and ensure its use, Kroger must commit to ongoing enhancement, enrichment and innovation. Assuming Kroger devotes the resources and investment to market the app, build its value and incorporate it as a vital building block to the shopper experience, I believe it will prove to be a wise launch.

Ken Cassar
BrainTrust
Ken Cassar
Vice President, Research, Shoptalk
1 year 2 months ago

This is a great idea. A perfect illustration of how brick-and-mortar retailers should be thinking about digital — it’s not just about e-commerce. Digital affords retailers and brands the opportunity to engage with consumers in meaningful ways. Most people won’t use this, of course, because most people don’t think deeply about eating healthfully. But for those that do, this could help tip them, in the long run, toward choosing Kroger.

Jennifer McDermott
Guest

Another app for app’s sake. There is no real driver to download this app over all others that exist in this space, particularly as Kroger isn’t established as a health or nutrition expert.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Kudos for Kroger for looking out for the health of its customers. Will this app be successful? For a segment of shoppers, yes, and they will appreciate the convenience; for most shoppers, no, and they will find the app too complicated and not worth the effort.

Then there is the issue of health-info overload. Grocery packages bear the SmartLabel; grocers have shelf labels with health info; and now this app.

Yes, they are options to acquire information, and options are always welcome. But at some point the variety gets to be annoying to some shoppers who just want to get in and out of the store.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I agree with other posters about OptUp being yet another “healthy eating” app of interest only to a small percentage of shoppers. However, any impact it makes on consumer habits is at the expense of other products Kroger sells and those “unhealthy” products are coming largely from national/CPG brands. So app adoption leads to brand rejection and for a store that sells many “unhealthy” products, it would create friction in the relationships it has with those vendors. Unlike CVS extracting itself from cigarette sales and relationships with those manufacturers, OptUp means Kroger wants to have its cake and eat it too.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Whether the app is adopted or not, it has brand value — I think someone on this thread mentioned “heart share” and another mentioned the population that keeps companies like Weight Watchers in business. Kroger’s move reinforces the brand as one that cares about its customers and that by itself will have positive outcomes. What would really be interesting would be if the app becomes proactive and prescriptive, warning customers about what they’re purchasing — for instance, when they pick up a product with peanuts in it when the customer has a peanut allergy, or lactose product when they’re lactose intolerant — that’s when it becomes more than a nice-to-have.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Kroger's app, which keys in on a popular consumer trend, is an excellent example of brick-and-mortar stores bridging the online and offline worlds."
"I personally applaud Kroger’s efforts to offer “better for you” guidance and I believe it will resonate with shoppers."
"Kroger might find out how few shoppers there are that are deeply concerned with the health level of foods."

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