Grocery chain Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is to experiment with a new retail concept aimed at health-conscious consumers called Nutshell Live Life Well beginning this fall.

To go into a pilot location in Toronto near a booming condo community, it will be a new version of a health store, according to company spokeswoman Julija Hunter.

"It’s a convenience-based, fresh food led drug-store model," that will offer a variety of "fresh, natural and healthy food and living ideas," she said.

While the grocery store sector will come under pressure in coming years from discount operators such as Wal-Mart and Target, this idea appears poised to court the more upmarket consumer who might be attracted to Whole Foods.

Central to the idea is a savvy team of in-store "Health Nuts", who can help connect consumers to local health experts, and community seminars on topics such as diet, exercise, sleep, stress relief, etc.

While Loblaw’s stores have had organic food sections, pharmacies and health food sections in-house, Nutshell Live Life Well "is different than anything we offer in our Loblaw grocery store portfolio," Hunter said.

It will be a small format with a franchised business model geared to customers seeking out health options.

Among the products:

  • Ready to eat food.
  • Groceries, including natural options.
  • A broad vitamin and supplement assortment.
  • Professional in-store health and wellness services.
  • Health and beauty products with a focus on natural skin care.
  • A pharmacy offering prescriptons and disease prevention advice.
  • Events and seminars for customers.

Loblaws has had a successful strategy wooing health conscious consumers. In 2001 it created an in-house private label organic line, PC Organics, and in 2005 it launched PC Blue Menu, a line of food products with lower salt, fat and sugar than other packaged goods.