Health care giant Humana, Inc. is partnering with Wal-Mart to give its HumanaVitality participants a deal on fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and other Great For You-emblazoned products starting next month.
The new program kicks off Oct. 15 and will allow the more than one million Vitality customers (all under age 65) to get a 5 percent discount on Great For You products, a logo the retailer created last year to make it easier for shoppers to spot healthy items without having to read dozens of nutrition labels each trip.
Although the partnership is the first of its kind in the U.S., health-care provider Humana tried a similar partnership with a retailer in South Africa and saw great results, Stuart Slutzky, Humana's chief of product innovation, told ABCNews.com. Humana approached Wal-Mart earlier this year because the two organizations have "a common vision," he said.
When Humana's South Africa program began in 2009, only 8 percent of its customers filled out the health assessment survey, which is necessary to participate in the discount program. Now, that number has increased to 40 percent.
Slutzky said Humana also tracked the percentages of healthy food in shoppers' baskets in South Africa. They found that the proportion of healthy food in shoppers' baskets rose from 18 percent in 2009 to 28 percent today.
Humana chose Wal-Mart as partner because most of its customers live in close proximity to a Wal-Mart. There are no plans to expand the program to include other stores.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics weighed in on how this partnership compares to other healthy rewards programs nationwide.
"To me, it's one positive step toward engaging one group into getting more nutritious options into their houses," said Sarah Krieger, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman.
But shoppers without Humana can find labels and discounts at grocery chains nationwide, Krieger said, adding that all three stores near her Florida home include similar programs without the insurance program.
"The bottom line is that stores know that we want nutritious foods," Krieger said. "There are stars, bullets, tags, all sorts of things to make it easier for customers to find the nutritious food they want."
Wal-Mart says it does plenty by way of giving its other customers' wallets a break.
"Our customers receive savings in our stores every day through our everyday low prices on healthier foods," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt. "We are equally dedicated to exploring innovative ways to bring down the cost of healthcare in America. This program offers a new way to help us accomplish this goal."