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App aims to reward healthy choices with loyalty points

Federal government will spend $5 million on Carrot Rewards app

Forget the stick. A new app uses the carrot to get Canadians to pay attention to their health.

The Carrot Rewards App dishes out loyalty points every time someone opens the app to look at a healthy recipe or take a quiz on the flu shot, for example.

Launching this fall in B.C. and in January in the rest of Canada, the app is backed by Ottawa, the government of B.C. and several health-related charities.

It’s the brainchild of Social Change Rewards, a Toronto-based startup whose CEO, Andreas Souvaliotis, formerly led the social change division of Air Miles rewards at Loyalty One.

The app aims to “nudge” people to make healthy choices, Souvaliotis told Canadian Grocer.

“We want to focus on the small things. Why should you eat more lettuce? Why should you get a flu shot?” he said.

Learning the answers to such questions through articles and quizzes will earn users loyalty points. They can also get points by referring the app to friends.

Souvaliotis said users will be offered points from top rewards programs such as those for airfare, grocery shopping, movies and credit cards.

He said the federal government has committed to paying for loyalty points for the app's first two million downloads. A request for proposal has been issued to points providers, he added.

Overall, the federal government has earmarked $5 million to create, run and promote the app, while B.C. has kicked in $2.5 million.

Social Change Rewards says it has received a total commitment of $15 million over the next five years from government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector for the app. Three health-related charities are backing it: the Heart & Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association and the YMCA.

Souvaliotis said there’s also room for companies to sponsor the app and offer health-related content. “The more offers people see the more they’re going to use it.”

Getting people hooked on health via phones and points makes perfect sense, Souvaliotis said because Canadians are addicted to both their smartphones and collecting loyalty points.

In past, governments turned to TV advertising to get health and other public policy messages across. But in the mobile age, apps make more sense, especially if people are rewarded for using them.

As proof, Souvaliotis cited a 2013 program by Air Miles, the YMCA and the Public Health Agency of Canada in which people earned Air Miles points for going to the gym.

The initial program ran at 15 YMCA gyms for a year. The result: more than half (53%) of gym members worked out one to six more times per week compared to the previous year.

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