The Nutrition Incentive POS System Transaction Challenge

There are instances in smaller grocery stores where nutrition incentive programs use paper vouchers to issue and redeem incentives. In larger format grocery stores and supermarkets, conducting nutrition incentives via an electronic methodology is preferred for accuracy, accountability, and efficiently moving customers through the checkout process. It is critical that the grantee and the retailer understand the capabilities of the point-of-sale (POS) system during the design phase of the nutrition incentive program.

The ability of a store to conduct nutrition incentives on their existing point-of-sale (POS) system is preferred, but there are many existing POS systems currently incapable of conducting an efficient and accurate electronic nutrition incentive transaction. The primary technical hurdle is the inability of POS systems to “trigger” discounts or promotions within a current transaction based on the type of payment tender, in this case, SNAP EBT. The convenience store and motor fuel retail channel have long used the ability to provide a cents-off fuel discount to customers paying with cash, yet until the launch of nutrition incentives, the grocery/supermarket industry had not generally identified a need for automatic discounts or promotions based on payment tender type.

POS System Basic Requirements for Nutrition Incentive Transactions
Based on existing nutrition incentive work across the country, the following is a basic set of criteria for what constitutes an efficient and accurate nutrition incentive transaction.

  • Automatically recognizes a SNAP EBT tender transaction to “trigger” incentive (Does not require cashier intervention).
  • Automatically determines eligible products for issuance and redemption.
  • Manages minimum purchase thresholds in order to earn incentives along with maximum issuance and redemption thresholds.
  • Works in a “mixed-tender transaction” where a customer uses some combination of SNAP, WIC, credit/debit and cash during the same transaction. Must keep WIC & SNAP items separate from respective payment tender, i.e. a WIC item cannot receive a SNAP incentive because they are two separate programs.
  • Provides reporting requirements for grantee/retailer.

While this basic set of nutrition incentive criteria is provided as a starting point, some of today’s POS systems may be able to meet all of the criteria listed above while other systems may only partially meet the criteria. Much of how well a POS system is able to conduct nutrition incentive transactions depends on how the incentive program is designed by the grantee. The best-case scenario for establishing a successful nutrition incentive program involves the retailer and the grantee understanding POS capabilities during the program design phase.