- This week, Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan opened a full-service "micro" grocery store on-site featuring healthy snacks, fresh food and produce, according to Michigan Live.
- Downtown Kalamazoo had been labeled a "food desert" by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the new market provides local and healthy options to hospital employees as well as the general public.
- In a statement, the hospital’s director of healthy living and sustainability said Bronson Market is designed to make it easier and more convenient to buy fresh, healthy food to eat now or take home and prepare.
Grocery stores shrinking to fit in smaller urban footprints isn't a new idea, but lately, some stores are taking a more "micro" approach and opening stores inside other businesses. In December, Kroger opened a grocery department inside a Walgreens store in Kentucky. Green Zebra plans to open several micro-stores to help push its west coast expansion. The store-within-a-store concept is an opportunity for grocers to reach customers where they are already shopping for other things while driving business back to their main stores.
This logistical trend dovetails with many retailers’ emphasis on healthy, fresh and local products. In Kalamazoo, the market is run by Bronson Methodist Hospital and isn’t a standalone brand, but other medical facilities have already partnered with local businesses. At Chambersburg Hospital in Pennsylvania, patients, visitors and the general public can shop for fresh and prepared foods in the lobby at The Butcher Shoppe, an outpost of a local grocer. The micro-market is stocked with salads, soups, sandwiches, desserts and more.
In Toledo, Ohio, the ProMedica healthcare system opened a non-profit grocery store called Market on the Green. The shop provides healthy food options and furthers the system’s mission to educate patients and the community about nutrition. The store employs a dietitian who teaches cooking classes and leads grocery store tours. The focus of all the programming is to show that healthy eating is easy, delicious and won’t break the bank. ProMedica plans to open more Market on the Green locations in the years ahead and intends to launch online ordering and home delivery as well.
The connection of the grocer to the medical facility is a logical step when prescribing medical care. A 2018 study from Michigan State University found that children who received a fruit and vegetable prescription from their pediatrician were significantly more likely to shop at the farmers’ market than those who did not receive a prescription. Having fresh produce available down the hall from the doctor’s office can only make meeting nutrition goals that much easier.
Partnering with health care systems and stocking shelves with nutritious and easy items gives stores an opportunity to position themselves as advocates for their customer’s health. Retailers could partner with hospitals and other facilities here, potentially opening up new real estate for expansion. But first they'll have to assess the opportunity, including new lease agreements, the viability of a curated assortment, and whether or not locations will see enough foot traffic to make the venture worthwhile.