Kroger's New OptUP App Combines Nutrition and Data Science to Help Shoppers Pick Healthy Foods
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Healthy eating is a big thing right now. This is especially true among young people, who have even been dubbed "Generation Sensible" in some parts of the world due to the fact that they're forgoing smoking, illegal drugs, alcohol, and junk food, and instead are spending more time at the gym and making healthier choices. The knock-on effect of this is that it's making people of all ages wake up to the importance of a healthy diet and finding an answer to the worldwide obesity epidemic.
Naturally, many big brands are making moves to exploit new trends in healthy eating and living and are trying to come up with new ways to offer unique shopping experiences which help customers make the best choices for themselves and the people they care about.
Now, supermarket chain Kroger is throwing its hat into the healthy eating ring with the launch of a brand-new app.
Named OptUP, the app uses data to put crucial nutritional information into the hands of Kroger customers, helping them find healthier products and make more sensible food choices.
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OptUP scores customers' choices based on nationally recognized dietary guidelines. It also offers personalized product recommendations and gives a user's whole household a unique health score. The app can also scan products for additional information, and make healthier alternative recommendations on selected items - both when shopping in-store, and online.
Product scores have been developed by Kroger's registered dieticians. Any food scoring 71 or over (out of 100) is labeled green and considered to be a healthy choice as it will contain lower saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and calories, and may be higher in fiber, protein, fruit/vegetable, and/or nut content, as well. Foods scoring between 36 and 70 are labeled yellow, meaning they may be somewhat higher in saturated fat, sodium, sugar or calories, or may have lower fiber, protein, and fruit or vegetable content, compared to green foods in the same category. Finally, the red category, with items scoring 1-35, contains unhealthy food and snacks which should only be enjoyed occasionally as special treats.
The app recommends that your shopping cart should contain at least 50% green products.
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The household score is measured on a scale between zero and 1,000 and is constructed from a customer's shopping habits over the preceding eight weeks. Customers with a score of 600 or higher are considered to be making the right choices.
"OptUP is a collaboration among our health, tech, digital, and 84.51deg teams," said Kroger's Chief Digital Officer, Yael Cosset. "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's OptUP app drives human behavior using a concept known as gamification - i.e. the practice of taking elements traditionally found in video games and then applying them to other areas.
Video games use many different techniques to stimulate the reward pathways of their users to keep them playing the game for as long as possible. Leaderboards, achievements, unlocking extra features, experience gaining, leveling up, character development, higher difficulty settings, and more, are all designed specifically to give gamers something to strive for and then reward them for doing so. It's classic psychological conditioning.
Apps such as OptUP recreate these feelings by giving users goals to strive for, and leaderboards to measure their progress. This fosters a sense of competition, not only with one's own previous score but also with other users.
"Kroger's new OptUP app brings a new level of gamification to grocery - one that combines eating well and ecommerce," said Sylvain Perrier, President and CEO of retail technology company Mercatus, in reaction to the app's release. "With healthy eating being one of the leading consumer behaviors driving ecommerce, the combination should help Kroger increase online sales. What's surprising here is Kroger's choice to go at it alone rather than partnering with a leading provider such as MyFitnessPal or WeightWatchers. A partnership would allow Kroger to deliver a more complete end-to-end experience and capitalize on the massive existing user-base behind these apps."
It would be interesting to see how Kroger could partner with other health and fitness apps to allow their services to work together. Many other apps of this kind already allow for data sharing, and anything that helps every generation be more sensible when it comes to their food choices is probably a good thing and is right on-trend with Generation Sensible's consumer habits.
In-store mobile experiences are set to be a hot topic at Future Stores Miami 2019, taking place in February at the JW Marriot Miami, Florida.
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