Why Target is giving its workers Fitbits

MINNEAPOLIS - Target (TGT) is going on a health kick, aimed at both customers and its employees.

The discount-store chain will push granola bars over candy bars at the checkout and hand out free basic activity trackers from Fitbit Inc. (FIT) to its more than 300,000 employees as part of the effort.

Target will also give extra discounts on fruits and vegetables to employees, said Jodee Kozlak, Target's chief human resources officer. It will also feature healthy grab-and-go snacks near the cash registers, downplaying items high in fat and sugar.

Target's partnership with Fitbit is one of its biggest corporate accounts for the activity tracker company, Kozlak said. Target employees will get the Fitbit Zip, which retails for $59.95.

Target is trying to reinvent its image as a promoter of wellness for employees and customers under its new CEO Brian Cornell, who came on board in August 2014. The move mirrors a similar strategy adopted by drugstore chain CVS Caremark Inc., which stopped selling cigarettes as part of a plan to become known as a health brand.

As part of the Fitbit program, employees who participate will be grouped into teams for a monthlong challenge. The winning team will get $1 million to funnel into a charity of their choice, Kozlak said.

Wellness is one of the key areas for Cornell, along with such areas as baby products and fashion. Target is adding more organic and natural food as it revamps its grocery aisles.

A few years ago, Target began working with various household and food suppliers to step up innovation in new products. It's being marketed under the Made to Matter label and it is now a $1 billion business.