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Walmart to give nutrition bars prime space as part of big health push

Signage is displayed on the exterior of a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. retail location in Shelbyville, Kentucky, U.S. on Monday, May 18, 2015. Wal-Mart is expected to release quarterly earnings on Tuesday, May 19. Photographer : Luke Sharrett / BloombergSignage is displayed on the exterior of a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. retail location in Shelbyville, Kentucky, U.S. on Monday, May 18, 2015. Wal-Mart is expected to release quarterly earnings on Tuesday, May 19. Photographer : Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg
Signage is displayed on the exterior of a Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. retail location in Shelbyville, Kentucky, U.S. on Monday, May 18, 2015.Photograph by Luke Sharrett — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The health and wellness space retailers are fighting each other tooth and nail over is about to get even more competitive.

Walmart (WMT) said on Tuesday that starting in January, it will give protein and health bars like Cliff and Luna products much more prominent space in its stores, moving them from the over-the-counter area populated with diet supplements and the like, to the more visible and trafficked grocery aisle, and potentially later by the cash registers at the front, as one component of a big health and wealth push the retailer is making.

That Walmart health push also includes offering free screenings for things like high blood pressure and glucose levels on Saturday at all its stores in a co-ordinated marketing blitz Walmart has dubbed a nationwide “health fair.” The retailer will also make 10,000 pharmacists available to give immunizations, though those will only be in select stores.

Walmart’s efforts come at a time everyone is jockeying for more of consumers’ spending on health and wealthness. from Target (TGT) to Walgreens to CVS Health . Indeed, Walmart giving healthier snacks more prime space echoes moves announced in recent months by both those retailers in parts of their respective fleets. Target CEO Brian Cornell has repeatedly said health and wellness are categories he wants to own.

 

Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart’s EVP for consumables and health and wellness, said the world’s largest retailer is trying to anticipate consumers’ changing habits.

“We’re probably a little bit ahead of the customer here but we certainly think that that’s where the customer is going,” Gloeckler told reporters on a conference call, speaking of the nutrition bars’ new placement, adding that their new position within stores will allow Walmart to expand its assortment of those healthier products.

This weekend’s events, which will include consultations on health exchanges customers can choose, are designed to bring more customers into stores, something Walmart is straining to do, by reminding consumers that the retailer is the only one to operate pharmacies, visions centers as well as care clinics.

Walmart’s move to grab more of the U.S. pharmacy business comes months before archrival CVS/pharmacy is done integrating the 1,700 Target pharmacies it bought in a $1.9 billion deal, announced in June, giving it the chance to showcase its own pharmacy business, one of the nation’s largest.