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Target tries removing junk food at checkout counter

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The move is seen as a huge business opportunity and a bit of a moral imperative. (AP)

In an effort to win over health conscious shoppers, Target will begin placing healthier food options near the checkout, swapping out candy, soda and other junk food.

The test is being implemented next month at 30 stores, reports Fortune. Items like KIND bars and Target’s own “Simply Balanced” nutrition brand will take center stage in an area where shoppers are most likely to make impulse buys.

“There’s both a huge business opportunity here and a bit of a moral imperative,” Christina Hennington, Target’s SVP of merchandising told attendees at a press conference on Tuesday. “Our ultimate goal is to improve the health of the nation.”

While the goal of national health improvement seems noble, there is major money to be made in the healthy foods market that the discount retailer is looking to chase.

So called Made to Matter products, “socially conscious” items handpicked by the store that include GMO-snacks and beauty categories, will likely take in $1 billion in sales by the end of 2015—the third year the items have been available. While that’s just a small portion of Target’s $75 billion annual revenue, the growth has been meaningful for the chain of stores as it looks to differentiate itself from rivals like Walmart.

“They [customers] don’t want us to be preachy and they don’t want us to tell them how to live their life,” said Hennington, reiterating that the idea behind the healthier products is more about nudging shoppers rather than sounding like a “nagging parent.”

But target isn’t the only store making internal switches towards healthier displays. CVS, which is currently buying out Target’s pharmacy business, has been moving junk food to less prominent locations at about 500 stores, reports Fortune. Walmart has also been offering more organic food items while Kohl’s has been making rooms for in-store FitBit and athletic wear displays.

Target says some partnerships are in the works to help differentiate the brand from its low-cost competition in the healthy foods and lifestyle categories. The change to highlight these items is a result of both consumer demand as well as a response to skyrocketing obesity rates in America. Target says they don’t want people to have to think too hard about making the “right” choices—while likely spending more.

“In order to enable a set of better choices, we feel like we need to make the healthy options the default option,” said Hennington.