Who needs a smoothie when you can earn food discounts?
Vitality members now earn points towards cut-price groceries and medicine instead of free health drinks
What would you choose: grocery vouchers or a free smoothie every week?
The Vitality Active Rewards programme offered by Discovery Health has slashed its smoothie offerings in favour of grocery vouchers for members chasing weekly fitness goals.
As consumers face rising living costs, including above-inflation medical aid increases for 2019 and record-high petrol prices, Vitality members will have to live without the odd free smoothie every week if they achieve their goals. Users now get points and it takes longer to earn a smoothie. Also gone is the additional bonus smoothie, snack or coffee every three weeks – which were granted if the user reached his or her exercise targets three consecutive times.
But Vitality has made it easier for cash-strapped consumers to get discounts on items they actually need, such as food, medicine and groceries. It also allows them to save up fitness points to get restaurant vouchers or discounts on appliances.
The Vitality rewards programme is designed to incentivise people to be active and healthy. It has about 500,000 members in SA and costs R239 a month.
To date, local members have earned R8m in coffee and smoothie rewards for meeting exercise targets, said Vitality.
Users get discounts on Kulula.com flights, half-price movies, up to 25% discounts on healthy food, and hefty discounts on gym membership fees.
But from 2019, Vitality will no longer be offering a 80% discount off annual membership at Run Walk for Life, saying the club had declined in popularity. Run Walk for Life is a business with exercise clubs across SA in which people take part in group walks or runs.
Run Walk for Life CEO Matthew Grossett said it had expected the relationship with Vitality to end. He also suggested it was costing Vitality too much money.
“Over the years we had seen Vitality drop a number of their other fitness and weight loss partners, such as CrossFit and Bootcamp; they have been moving away from partners that they have to subsidise. In addition, Vitality have been focusing more on the younger, fitter segment of the market and less on the segment of the market who need Run Walk for Life.”
Consumers still can get substantial discounts for their gym memberships, which Vitality head Craig Nossel said was very popular among Vitality members. Up until last month, consumers who met their fitness goals could choose a reward of a weekly coffee, smoothie or movie popcorn. Now they choose a game-board “tile” which then reveals the points they have earned.
Vitality members are most likely to earn 25 or 30 points as these are the most common prizes. This earns them a free coffee. A smoothie – which costs 40 points and used to be given every week – now on average would take a week and half to earn.
The average score of the 25 tiles is 32 points, a 20% reduction on what users earned before.
But while earning less per week on average, users can now save points to get more substantial rewards over time.
A hundred points will allow people to get R100 off their bills at Clicks, DisChem, Pick n Pay and some restaurants. If they earn 250 points, they get online shopping vouchers. Even more points allow them to shop at the Apple iStore.
Nossel said: “Giving people the choice of a variety of rewards means they can decide what is most valuable to them. Some people find grocery vouchers the most valuable; others may want to treat themselves to a manicure or buy a gadget they otherwise would not be able to afford.”
Some consumers like the new system, saying they prefer shopping discounts to smoothies.
Johannesburg cyclist Lauren Mendoza said she would rather have bigger rewards like R100 off her Pick n Pay bill. “Smoothies were nice, but I prefer saving money on groceries.”
Nossel said although there were no additional rewards for meeting exercise goals three times in a row, there was now a choice to accumulate reward points over time for much higher value rewards.
In response to the new plan, Dean Kowarski, CEO of smoothie maker Kauai, said: “Discovery Vitality continues to be a strong partner for Kauai, especially as we are both working towards making healthy eating accessible to a broader audience.”
Vitality research has shown that its Gold and Diamond Vitality members (those who are most engaged in the programme) have a 41% lower probability of heart disease, a 53% decreased probability of diabetes, and a 50% lower probability of being diagnosed with a lung disease.
Discovery medical aid members who pay for the Vitality reward programme exercise about 20% more than members who don’t use the reward system, the research found.