NutriFilter scans the nutritional information for the online grocer's 10,000 SKUs and shows shoppers with celiac disease, for instance, only gluten-free goods. Specific dietary needs coded into the product include gluten-free, organic, peanut-free, low-fat and Kosher. Other common diets will be added in the future.
"This is an example of the perfect confluence of shopper needs and technology," says Don Stuart, managing director at Cannondale Associates, Wilton, Conn. "This will clearly empower consumers to utilize online to a greater degree for grocery and other products."
Launch marketing for the free service focuses on email to Peapod's 300,000 regular users in Chicago, Milwaukee and East Coast markets.
The shoppers already were able to view nutritional information per SKU by clicking on product images, but Elana Margolis, Peapod's spokeswoman, suggests that initial reactions may move even couch potatoes to a low-sodium diet.
"People go in and freak out," she says of their reaction to the possibilities. "You can go in and click on low sodium and low fat." Families also can create and store multiple NutriFilter profiles, specific to the desired food attributes of each member.
"The grocery online model has not been widely viewed as a success," Stuart says. "Ease of customization via the Internet with pre-scored customer needs can add a true benefit without incremental cost."
"I think people still need to be aware of how to read labels and understand what they are putting in their bodies and how it affects them personally," adds Christy Goldfeder, a health coach in New York. "However, for busy people who are always on the go, it's a good way to quickly scan labels to make healthy choices."
Cooperative marketing with nonprofits is difficult to secure, Stuart says. Peapod is not seeking partnerships with cause-related nonprofits that fund research for diet-related health problems.
"We worked a little bit with the [American] Heart Association, but are not doing that right now," Margolis says. "I don't know that we need to do that."
Stuart, however, believes that nonprofits may initiate partnerships with Peapod. "Since this product is designed to make it easier and faster to select products that meet specific consumer needs, we have no doubt that a number of endorsements will be forthcoming," the consultant says.
The e-tailer may hire a nutritionist, Margolis says, to speak authoritatively about healthy eating and build a human customer relationship experience that can extend NutriFilter's credibility if it chooses to do mass marketing.
For now, however, Peapod is meeting the requirements to add Weight Watchers points to each inventory item and may provide SKU-level information pertinent to the South Beach and Zone diets in the future. These developments will leverage their proprietary nutrition calculators independent of relationships with the popular weight-loss programs.
"Given the broad-scale epidemic of obesity in America, the diet plans could be opportunity No. 1," Stuart says. "There are tie-ins galore and a ready market."
Consumers--even wandering Web surfers--pay nothing for the NutriFilter service. Any consumer can use it to generate a diet-appropriate shopping list.
While Peapod likely could license the software to other online retailers, it hopes to pull new customers into its delivery service once they try NutriFilter.
"Given the leverage that Peapod has in this space, its brand recognition and lead over competitors, we believe this can be a unique point of difference for Peapod relative to other entrants," Stuart says.
And as with other online applications, NutriFilter acts as a valuable resource for savvy consumers.
"These days, names give you no idea of whether what you're eating is real or totally manufactured," Goldfeder says. Once even the most time-crunched consumers are educated on product nutritional information without making any effort to increase this knowledge, "food companies will have to start relying on simpler, whole ingredients and reducing or eliminating artificial ingredients."
Food manufacturers used to label products "imitation." Margarine, for instance, was "imitation butter," she says. "I can't imagine they would go back to calling their products imitations."