Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Million Dollar Idea: Grocery Lottery

I consider myself a bit of an armchair millionaire. I’m coming up with ideas all the time that would make me millions, if only I could set them in motion. (Ask Greg—he would roll his eyes and say “yep.”) Some ideas wouldn’t make me any money, per se… they’re just so utterly awesome that they still deserve the “million dollar” tag. Intrigued? I know. Calm down already.

To understand the idea, one must first be familiar with the NuVal system:

NuVal and I have become fast friends. It’s basically a magical scoring system that factors in the good stuff, subtracts for the bad stuff, divides by three, and multiplies by the square root of the number you’re thinking of right now to arrive at a simple score between 1-100 that shows how nutritionally sound a product is.

A sampling of scores (listed on the shelf by the price):
fresh tomatoes = 96
Fruity Pebbles = 12
chicken breast = 39
Wonder Bread = 23
1% milk = 81
Teddy Grahams = 24
shrimp = 75
raspberries = 100 (woot!)
Mac ‘n Cheese = 5 (sorry Tali)

Anything that makes bringing greater nutritional clarity and objectivity to the masses amid all the misleading commercial clutter is wonderful, in my view. Plus I like that I don’t have to physically take things off the shelf to check the nutrition facts. Laziness!

Anyhow, back to this here idea. Hy-Vee recently started featuring NuVal, which is exciting, but do you know what would be more exciting?? Being rewarded for the nutritional value of your cart! This could be as simple as providing a final points total. Hy-Vee could needs to realize what Safeway and Gordman’s already know: people love to hear how awesome they are when checking out. That’s why a cheerful voice always recites “You saved $___ today!” while tearing off your receipt at these places; it leaves the customer feeling accomplished, and maybe even compels them to come back and beat their old score.

But wait, there’s more! A total score is fun, but why not sweeten the deal? If Hy-Vee could somehow figure out a system where your NuVal points could earn entries in a lottery, then more people would intentionally “trade up” (substituting wheat for white pasta, for example) before they hit the register.

I know what you’re thinking: “This woman is a freaking genius.” You’re also thinking: “I thought this was supposed to be a million dollar idea, not cost a million dollars. I’m confused.” Fear not, little one, for I have two words: government subsidies. Think about it—preventative care is infinitely cheaper than after-the-fact treatment of obesity and heart disease, so it would actually save us money to incentivize nutrition in this way.

The fact that it’s a lottery also cleverly targets the group that needs this program the most: the poor. These are proven facts:
1) The poorest individuals in the US are also the unhealthiest, with an especially high link between poverty and obesity. This is in part due to the fact that junk food is just cheaper—you could buy three cheeseburgers on the dollar menu at McDonald’s for what you would pay for a handful of raspberries.
2) Poor people love to play the lottery. True story. If they give you a chance at big bucks, maybe those raspberries will start to look more cost effective, and fun! (Although I think they are fun no matter what prize is attached... I heart you, raspberries).

And though everyone won’t win, everyone eventually will win: the unhealthiest Americans will be incentivized to trade up to better nutrition, customers overall will be more intentional about eating better, and everyone will choose Hy-Vee over Wal-Mart, which will die the slow and agonizing death it so very much deserves. Yay!


  1. I think you're on to something. Who do you need to tell this to before someone steals your idea?

    *bummer about macaroni*

  2. This woman is a freaking genius. :)
    Love the blog!

  3. i'm excited that now whenever Jonathan wants mac n cheese I can go for the healthier option and wisely eat fruity pebbles!