(Nov. 5) CARLISLE, Pa. — Most shoppers don’t think about insurance when they go grocery shopping, but insurance is thinking about them.

To encourage consumers to buy healthier foods, a leading Northeastern supermarket chain is working with an insurance company to offer rebates and prizes to shoppers who make healthy shopping choices.

The 119-store Carlisle-based Giant Food Stores LLC, a subsidiary of Ahold USA Inc., Chantilly, Va., and Harrisburg, Pa.-based HealthAmerica and HealthAssurance are experimenting with a program that provides rebates to customers that buy certain healthier food items.

The healthier selections “one check rebate” program, which started Oct. 30 at 17 of Giant’s Harrisburg stores, the chain’s core area, marks the first time the chain has dedicated its shopper rebate card exclusively to healthier items, said Denny Hopkins, Giant’s president of advertising and public relations.

“Like so many other retailers, we know we need to address this growing segment of our consumer base,” he said.

“We’re trying to make the items we carry more attractive and raise consumer awareness that we stock these products.”

In the program, which runs for six weeks, Giant, like other chains, tracks its customers’ purchases through an electronic rebate card.

Shoppers buying selected items will receive rebate checks and be entered in a contest to win prizes such as wellness and sporting goods gift cards, fitness club memberships, hotel-spa packages and magazine subscriptions.

The offerings include three types of Dole packaged salads — 12-ounce Greener Selection, 11-ounce Just Lettuce and 10-ounce Classic Romaine — and a three-pound pack of red delicious apples along with 28 other healthier products in the dairy, deli, frozen and other grocery areas of the store.

Kendall Marcocci, HealthAmerica and HealthAssurance’s director of communications, said the program — developed by both the grocery store chain and insurance company — is a natural fit to help persuade consumers to make better shopping choices.

“For anyone in health care, making wiser choices at the grocery store is critical,” she said.

“With the incidences of obesity and all the diseases made worse through obesity, a lot of money gets spent in taking care of people and trying to make them well. If we can make them healthy in the first place, the demand for health care will go down as well as the cost.”

If successful, Marcocci said she sees the insurer expanding the program with Giant and other chains to serve its 730,000 members in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Other produce items will likely be added to the program, Hopkins said.

Choosing popular items that the store frequently promotes remains important to the program, he said.

“With all the weather conditions we’ve had this year, when you make a commitment like this, you want to make sure you’re selecting products coming from areas that haven’t been hurt by hurricanes or storms,” Hopkins said.

Florida citrus, tomatoes and green beans and other vegetables from Florida and Georgia, he said, are more expensive this season and could not be considered for use in the program.

The insurance company’s policy holders and loyalty card members receive publications on healthy lifestyles, the company’s employees get information through payroll stuffers, said Lori Cecil, Giant’s rebate program manager.

Developing good partnerships with insurance companies is important to the program’s success, she said.

“We’re realistic about this,” she said. “Retailers don’t have this health and wellness background.”

Giant rewards healthful choices
Giant Food Stores’ Web site — https://giantpa.rebateplus.com/ — provides details about the grocer’s rebate program. Three types of Dole packaged salads were part of the effort.