Digital Coupons Find New Use -- Employee Benefits

NutriSavings Venture Tries E-Coupons Through Health Plans to Get Employees to Eat Better

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Employers who've tried many things to get employees to adopt healthier lifestyles now have a new option -- giving them coupons.

At the same time, startup SavingStar has found a new market for its digital coupons and incentives service -- employer health plans -- as it prepares to roll out a joint venture with third-party benefits provider Edenred to give employees incentives to eat better.

The NutriSavings business, owned two thirds by Edenred and one third by Savingstar, gives employees e-coupons for healthy food options. It initially will be funded by employers or their health plans, but may ultimately get some funding from brand manufacturers paying for offers like they would other digital coupons, said Gerard Briti, CEO of NutriSavings. But they'll have to be qualified as healthy-diet options employers would like to fund.

Employers will get aggregated data on how employees are downloading and using the healthy-diet incentives offered by NutriSavings, but they won't see how individual employees are using the program, Mr. Briti said. "That information is too personal to share," he said.

He declined to name initial clients, but said the first one is a health plan in the Northeast with "four or five large employers."

NutriSavings furthers a mini-trend toward digital marketing startups tapping the corporate human-resources market for incentive programs. WPP's Rockfish, Rogers, Ark., last year through its Rockfish Labs incubator launched YouEarnedIt, a sort of loyalty program that awards employees points and incentives based on positive feedback from peers, bosses and underlings. Early clients have included WPP agencies as well as a Wal-Mart Stores pilot.

"If you're a national employer, you need a solution that's in all 50 states and allows employees to get education and options for how they can take action in the supermarket," said SavingStar CEO David Rochon. "This gives the average supermarket a way to participate in health and wellness without just ceding that plane to Whole Foods."

Employers already spend $520 per employee per year on average for healthier-living incentives, Mr. Rochon said, but often that's for things like gym memberships where it's impossible to measure whether employees actually end up going to the gym. With SavingStar, he said, employers will be able to see, at least in aggregate, whether employees are using the incentives.

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