Phil Lempert's Supermarket Guru on July 9 featured an article on "Changing habits with loyalty cards."

The premise of the piece was that loyalty cards have "tremendous potential" for influencing attitudes and shaping consumer purchasing decisions.

From the story:

"Two recent updates to loyalty cards spotlight the potential. The first is CVS new ExtraCare  Advantage for Diabetes program, which gives members exclusive savings, 'double bucks' on specific items, special promotions and rewards, as well as an ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes e-newsletter.

The second is a movement in the abroad to prohibit loyalty points from the purchase of alcohol sales. The British Medical Association in Scotland announced last week that big grocery retail  chains should not "reward" customers who take advantage of cut-price offers and bulk-buy  alcohol."

The story says because low income correlates with higher incidence of obesity, supermarkets could introduce cost saving incentives for "healthy choices"  "Supermarkets could become the  motivation driver for better nutrition, giving shoppers more loyalty card points for dollars  spent on "healthy choices."

"In other words, a healthy reward program would allow earnings for a bag of fresh produce and  but nothing for a package of cookies. For each $10 of healthy purchases, shoppers can earn $1 in  "in-kind" rebate," the story concluded.

The idea does have appeal. However, the many permutations of loyalty cards in each market (how  many "loyalty" card do you have in your wallet or on your keychain?) leave me less than enthralled with the idea. Why have a multitude of retailers each giving the consumer their own version of  "loyalty” card?

Instead, I would love to see the Produce for Better Health Foundation issue a type of debit/electronic card that would allow consumers to purchase fruits and vegetables at discounts. This type of card - ideally valid for any fresh produce purchase - could help the "More Matters" brand be established with consumers.

A starting point for the card could be its use with the WIC program. The government could load the "More Matters" debit card with the appropriate value. Consumers would use the card instead of the soulless ureaucratic "voucher" system.

Produce marketers who "pay to play" could load coupons and deals on the produce "loyalty card.

Retailers could also program weekly advertised specials on to the "More Matters" card.

Double or triple points could accrue for consumers exceeding a certain value of produce purchases each week, with grand prizes including trips to growing areas in California, Washington, Florida, Chile, etc.

Retail "loyalty" cards are too often a necessary evil for consumers, but this produce loyalty card would create goodwill and the honest potential to change shopping behavior.