Virtual Comp Shop: H&W Lessons from Walgreens and CVS

Virtual Comp Shop: H&W Lessons from Walgreens and CVS

September 1, 2021
Annette Maggi
Retail Industry InsightsTrends

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

With travel restrictions still commonly in place across the retail industry, comp shops have been placed on a temporary hold. To ensure retail RDs are gaining insights from other retailers (both grocery and non-grocery), the RDBA team is bringing virtual comp shops to you. In our first installment of this regular newsletter feature, I’m providing health and wellbeing insights from two leading drug chains in the country -- Walgreens, and CVS.

Insight #1: Drug Chains are increasing food offerings. Food offerings at CVS are moving well being convenience items like milk and impulse items like chips and candy to offer a wider variety of foods, including fresh produce and healthier options. Earlier this year, CVS announced they were adding 60 new better-for-you snacks and 50 new frozen foods that are vegan, organic, gluten-free, plant based, and/or no-sugar-added. They also announced a partnership with Beyond Meat to carry Beyond Burgers and Beyond Meatballs in their chain. With more than 18,000 stores nationwide combined, CVS and Walgreens are often in areas underserved by grocery stores.

  • Retail RD Application. If your chain owns convenience and/or liquor stores, develop a strategy to increase healthier food options as well as healthy living programs and promotions in these stores. Ensure that convenience goes hand-in-hand with healthier options in your stores, merchandising relevant food items in pharmacy and displays near self-checkout lanes. Shop your local drug retailers to understand their food offerings and health messaging as competitive to your stores. Promote the variety of options in your store from fresh to frozen to canned, which would be difficult for drug chains to offer.

Insights #2: Cross Department Bundles. Walgreens is effective at building bundles of products related to one topic and that cross departments of the store. As shown in their back-to-school example, they promote first aid items with supplements and food. When you drill down into the e-commerce bundle, it loses its directional focus, including incontinence and weight loss products. While improvements are needed, the overall strategy is sound.

  • Retail RD Application: While food bundles tied to a specific health need (healthy snacking, Mediterranean Diet, etc) are becoming more common on grocery e-commerce sites, consider how you can expand the program to include non-food items. For example, a Cold and Flu Comfort bundle or a Diabetes Care Package.

Insight #3: Incentivizing Health. One of the most impressive programs offered at Walgreens is the Wellness Challenges under their Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices program. Loyalty card holders can select among various weekly challenges related to activity or lifestyle. For example, lifestyle challenges include things like eating more fruits and vegetables by adding one more to the same meal every day, eating one mindful meal without TV or devices at least three times during the week, or committing to meditation time. Activity challenges range from trying 30 minutes of yoga, walking 10,000 steps, or standing vs. sitting more during the workday. Consumers can link a tracking system (think MyFitnessPal) to the challenges or track progress manually. For each weekly challenge completed, the shopper gets $0.25 added to their cash rewards. If the consumer does a challenge four weeks in a row, they receive bonuses.

  • Retail RD Application: Develop a pitch to add a shopper challenge program to your RD programs and services and loyalty card program for employees and/or shoppers.

Insight #4: Vending in Drug Chains. Farmer’s Fridge has been spotted at both CVS and Walgreens stores in Chicago. The menu for these vending machines offers salads, sandwiches, bowls, and snacks for any meal of the day. The meals are made from scratch and delivered fresh to the locations overnight. This approach brings food conveniences as well as perceived freshness and health to the offerings at these drug chains.

  • Retail RD Application: Partner with deli and fresh departments to consider how you integrate this fresh, healthy and convenient offering into your stores. At stores near job sites, for example, consider a made-to-order salad kiosk combined with RDs available for shopper Q&As. In-ecommerce, promote “RD Approved” grab-and-go items.

Have a retailer in mind that you’d like us to comp shop? Send an email to