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Target May Be Removing the Junk Food from Its Checkout Stands

Instead of Milky Ways and obscure flavors of gum, you could be falling victim to last-minute purchases of KIND bars and other "healthy" snacks.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
September 17, 2015, 7:00pm
Photo via Flickr user torbakhopper

The checkout line's where they get you.

You've made it so far and been so good, your cart loaded with bags of fresh spinach, a bottle of organic window cleaner, and an array of tiny, overpriced jars of pickles. But now, in the final countdown to consumer cutoff, you're faced with a veritable smorgasbord of chocolate bars, sour candies, and more chewing gum than even the worst halitosis-sufferer would ever need.

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Who hasn't fallen victim to the treacherous pull of that sugary snake pit next to the conveyor belt?

READ: You May Soon Be Able to Get Drunk While Shopping at Target

But now Target, one of the nation's largest big-box store chains, is ready to cast pity upon your total lack of self-control and get rid of the ubiquitous checkout-stand junk-food booby trap.

According to Forbes, there will, for the record, still be an assortment of snacks begging to be added to your loot on the way out. But Target is looking to make them a little bit healthier.

See, the health food and wellness sector is gigantic these days, estimated to hit $1 trillion in 2017, based on Euromonitor International estimates. And with consumers increasingly aware of, and concerned about, the detrimental effects of indulging in too much candy and soda, the shift could be well-timed.

Tests of the new-and-improved checkout stands will begin at 30 Target stores next month, with Milky Ways and Lemonheads replaced by fruit-and-nut bars and items from Target's own Simply Balanced line.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Target's SVP of Merchandising Christina Hennington explained, "There's both a huge business opportunity here and a bit of a moral imperative … our ultimate goal is to improve the health of the nation."

Sure, Henny. Mega-corporations certainly act on what's best for America rather than self-interests, right? … But it probably doesn't hurt that Americans are consistently willing to pay more for organic and specialty food products. And ultimately, Target wants you to feel like it's your idea to go with a KIND bar instead of a Snickers when you get to the end of your shopping trip.

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"[Customers] don't want us to be preachy, and they don't want us to tell them how to live their life," Hennington told reporters.

Notoriously health-conscious Target CEO Brian Cornell has identified "wellness" as one of the four sectors that the company aims to dominate, alongside fashion, baby items, and products for children. Another move that the company has made to reel in the kale-lovers was the launch of Made to Matter, a set of "handpicked items" geared towards gluten-free, hypoallergenic, and non-GMO tastes, from probiotic vitamin gummies to recycled toilet paper.

For what it's worth, Cornell himself has a personal penchant for healthy living, often exercising twice a day and encouraging employees to be physically active for at least 200 minutes each week, as mentioned in a Fortune profile of the CEO from earlier this year. The company has also started providing nutritional information for the food served at its company cafeteria, and offers all employees Fitbits.

So will employees feel a little less guilt when their megastore looks more like a Whole Foods than a backwoods Wal-Mart? Maybe. Although Target is experimenting in other ways, too: One store in Chicago recently applied for two liquor licenses, suggesting that it could be offering an in-store zone for kicking back with a glass of wine or a brewski.

But in the meantime, maybe you'll eat one less pack of Starbursts on your way out the door.