Roundy’s implements ‘Health Key’ to simplify shopping

Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc.
875 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee
Innovation: An on-shelf tag system designed to make it easier for customers to purchase healthier foods

These days, many Americans are becoming more careful about their diets. Whether it’s a general effort to eat healthier or a specific dietary restriction like “gluten free” or “no lactose,” a trip to the grocery store can involve a number of health-related decisions and choosing the right product to fit your specific needs isn’t always clear.

In an effort to clarify that process, Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. has unveiled “Health Key,” a wellness program designed to simplify grocery shopping and make it easier for people to purchase the healthier foods that fit their diets.

“(Health Key) is an on-shelf tag system. It has 18 different health attributes important to customers today,” said Dana Schueller, senior marketing leader at Roundy’s. “Unlike manufacturer guidelines, it scores the whole store across these attributes so it’s easier for customers to make sense of it.”

Health Key kicked off officially on Jan. 1 and is now at all Roundy’s locations. Each of the 18 different attribute tags is given its own identifying color, and products that fit more than one attribute can have more than one colored tag.

“It’s another way that we’re showing customer-centricity,” Schueller said. “This is a response to knowing that it’s important for customers to know what they’re buying. Health is always important. Being able to help customers make a choice that they want to make is what this is all about. “

Schueller said this cuts down on the confusion that some products can convey through their own packaging. Some products that may use healthy indicators on packaging may fit federal guidelines, she said, but don’t always represent the product as a whole.

For example, cereal may be marketed as “whole grain,” but may still contain large amounts of sugar. With Health Key, that cereal would only get the “whole grain” tag if it is the product’s first ingredient, Schueller said.

“Everything you see on a package is going to be true, but what this does is simplify it for the customer,” she said. “(Customers are) not going to have to look at each individual label.”

Health Key aims to standardize the complexity of food packaging, ultimately making the purchasing process easier.

In a bigger picture sense, what this means is higher standards for Roundy’s products.

“No product is given a Health Key tag, such as “heart healthy” or “no sugar added,” unless the entire product – not just the first ingredient – meets strict parameters, meaning products that have over 13 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, or 480 milligrams are automatically omitted,” said Roundy’s spokesperson Lauren Manix.

Schueller, who led Health Key’s program development, said developing the Health Key took roughly six to nine months of work for employees in Milwaukee. This involved reviewing all products in Roundy’s stores, examining the nutritional data, designing the tags and ultimately getting them into all of its stores. Now, Schueller said, the project will continue as the data is refreshed on an ongoing basis.

“It really does encompass many, many things that people might be shopping for, but it’s simple,” she said.

Schueller said the Health Key system can be especially helpful for households of shoppers that have a specific dietary intolerance like gluten or lactose.

Another factor, she said, is that the population has aged over the past few years, which is part of the reason more and more customers are taking greater care in the decisions they make when buying food.

Ultimately, Roundy’s has chosen to implement Health Key as a response to its customers.

“(Health Key) is really a customer-centric thing,” Schueller said. “Beyond just selling food, we want to help customers live better lives.”

Dan Shafer covers innovation and technology for BizTimes Milwaukee. Send news to him at or follow him on Twitter @danshaferMKE.

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