Fresh Food

Consumers Look to Grocers, Produce Brands to Support Their Health Goals

Retailers, suppliers launching wellness programs, promotions to guide shoppers on nutrition journeys
Photograph: Shutterstock

Increasingly health-aware, today’s consumer will head into the new year with goals for better nutrition, fitness and overall well-being, and they’ll look to the retailers and produce brands who can best help them achieve their desire for holistic health and wellness.

With its HealthMarket store-within-a-store concept and its stand-alone HealthMarket that opened this past summer, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. is leading the charge when it comes to offering customers a one-stop shop for holistic health. An entire store devoted to total health and wellness, Hy-Vee HealthMarket even includes an Orangetheory fitness studio.

Chainwide, it’s all hands on deck to promote a healthy start to the new year at Hy-Vee stores, where the grocer’s team of dietitians will begin 2019 with in-store health fairs and renewed emphasis on its programs designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle year-round.

“Hy-Vee’s more than 165 in-store dietitians across our eight-state region always make a big push to start the new year strong with health and wellness promotions,” says Brian Scheil, a Hy-Vee dietitian in Canton, Ill.This effort receives strong support from all other in-store departments, and we work to find fun and interesting ways to integrate throughout the store.”

“Hy-Vee puts a focus on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, and better-for-you choices year-round, but we do add extra emphasis to many of our existing programs at the beginning of each new year because that is when many people commit to kicking off new, healthy lifestyle changes,” says Tina Potthoff, Hy-Vee’s VP of communications.

Programs include Balance, the grocer’s monthly health and wellness publication, and a 10-week, dietitian-led lifestyle management and weight-loss program called Begin that is offered year-round. Hy-Vee dietitians also assist customers with meal planning development and solutions through its Simple Fix program, as well as free nutrition tours and personalized shopping assistance.

In Scheil’s experience, the best way to connect with customers at the start of the year is through health and wellness fairs. “This is an opportunity to bring excitement back into the store after the holiday season and show customers the unique health and wellness services we have to offer,” he says. In some stores, Hy-Vee invites local gyms, spas or other health-related businesses to participate in the health fair. “[It’s] a way to show community unity in helping people make their holistic fitness and nutrition goals easier to plan and achieve,” says Scheil.

Health fairs are also an opportunity for customers to meet Hy-Vee’s entire health and wellness team, including its pharmacy staff and HealthMarket manager.

 “To execute a great health fair promotion, it’s important for customers to be able to sample new and trending health-conscious foods and beverages, and we offer easy recipe tastings that incorporate fresh produce, seafood or other departments in the store,” he continues. “These are really brought to life with live cooking demos that include culinary tips and fitness equipment demos.”

Hy-Vee’s holistic approach is squarely on trend. In its Global Food and Drink Trends 2019, the market researchers at Mintel identify healthy aging as an emerging opportunity for food and drink. “Preparing oneself for a longer, healthier lifespan is particularly relevant as consumers view health and wellness as a holistic, proactive and ongoing pursuit,” according to Mintel.

Fail-Proof February

While scores of consumers will head into 2019 with healthy intentions, studies find that about 80% of resolutions fail by February. One way Hy-Vee dietitians help customers achieve their healthy lifestyle goals year-round is to focus on fresh produce all year long.

“We do have some great, unique partnerships with produce suppliers going into the new year, but our focus on produce is truly year-round,” says Mike Orf, Hy-Vee’s group VP of produce.Hy-Vee stores sample and demo fruits and vegetables every week of the year, not just when people are thinking about a healthier start. We are available to support their goals all year long.”

Hy-Vee posts fruit and vegetable signs throughout the entire produce department that offer nutrition facts about the food, handling and storage methods, and easy recipes. “It’s just another way to reach the customer,” says Scheil.

The grocer also features fresh produce in its monthly magazine. The featured item is current with the season, and the article offers nutrition facts about the item, handing and cooking tips, and a recipe. And in markets with local news channels, Hy-Vee dietitians make themselves available for TV segments that share the benefits of a particular fruit or vegetable, as well as easy ways to prepare it or use it in a recipe.

When it comes to encouraging consumers to stay on track with healthful diets rich in fruits and vegetables, Steven Muro, president and founder of Fusion Marketing in Chatsworth, Calif., finds the most successful supermarkets are those that go beyond a three- or five-day promotion. He points to one grocer’s 30-day recipe plan promotion that invited customers to visit the retailer’s website for a full month of healthful meal ideas. The promotion also encouraged more frequent shopping trips to the store, where customers could find all of the ingredients to make the day’s recipes in one convenient location.

“One of the biggest challenges is that people don’t keep their resolutions. When retailers help the consumer to stay focused and make their shopping and food preparation easier, they go beyond the promotional mindset and help their customers to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” Muro says.

Better-for-You Convenience

Twenty-seven percent of U.S. consumers agree that “it takes too much time to prepare healthy food,” according to Mintel’s 2019 Global Food and Drink Trends report, which identifies “Elevated Convenience” as a top food and beverage trend.

Today’s on-the-go consumers are looking for quick, delicious, nutritious and fresh solutions for meals and snacks, and value-added fruits and vegetables have become increasingly important to the convenience-seeking, health-conscious shopper.

At Hy-Vee, convenience remains key when it comes to propelling consumers to eat more fresh produce. Hy-Vee offers an abundance of solutions for nutrient-rich snacks and meals in a snap. “Our Hy-Vee Short Cuts line of already cut and prepared fruits and vegetables also makes healthy eating easy, whether customers are making a meal or looking for a healthy on-the-go snack, no matter what season,” saysOrf.

hy-vee short cuts display
Photograph courtesy of Hy-Vee

Snack-Central Displays

The healthful snacking trend is here to stay, and retailers and suppliers alike continue to explore fresh ways to promote fruits and vegetables as convenient, on-the-go snack items at the start of the new year and beyond.

Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, Wash., recently debuted EZ Pallet snack-focused displays for apples and pears, as well as its Lil Snappers kid-size fruit. “The big advantage of this display is that it allows retailers to merchandise multiple varieties of one product—apples, pears, organic apples or Lil Snappers—without having to segment the product and displays at their distribution centers,” says Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s communications manager. “Everything is shipped in one half-pallet unit and the display comes together in seconds.”

steamlit produce
Photograph courtesy of Stemlit

Stemilt EZ Pallets are designed to help retailers build eye-catching displays within their apple or pear sets, as well as secondary displays throughout the store.

“The snacking tie-in is very on-trend to how people are eating apples and pears and a not-so-subtle reminder that apples or pears are ready to grab and take with them wherever today’s busy consumers happen to go,” says Shales.

Promoting a Colorful 2019 

The vast majority of consumers will look to the produce department to improve their diets and eat a rainbow of fruits and veggies in 2019.

According to a recent survey from Wakefield Consulting, 87% of consumers are interested in making small diet changes, such as eating more fruit and veggies, as part of their new year diet, according to Frieda’s Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos, Calif., which commissioned the report.

“Because color-rich means nutrient-dense, this January we are working with retailers to launch a Unique Color, Uncommon Nutrition Campaign, so that they don’t miss an opportunity to serve up the healthiest options to consumers,” says Alex Jackson Berkley, Frieda’s sales manager.

“My most important piece of advice to retail buyers is to be open minded,” Berkley continues. “Their shoppers are looking for new items that may be different colors and flavors than they’re used to. Don’t be discouraged by the unknown—be inspired like your shoppers are.”

Items such as Frieda’s Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, colored cauliflower, elephant garlic and rainbow carrots add dynamic hues and powerful nutrition to a healthy diet, but consumers may need to be educated and encouraged to try these specialties.

“Retailers and shoppers eat with their eyes before their mouths,” Berkley says. “We are always working to build creative, multifunctional content across our digital and social channels that helps to make some of our more exotic product that much more approachable.”

Frieda’s most viewed online videos include how to open a coconut, all about Stokes Purple sweet potatoes and Bitter Melon 101.

Digital and Social Digestion

Trading partners are increasingly using digital and social channels to encourage produce consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle. Fusion Marketing’s Muro points to the California Avocado Commission (CAC), whose #BigGameAdd program during the 2016 Super Bowl interjected California avocados into social media surrounding the game in a groundbreaking way that scored a 553% increase in brand mentions.

Video content also has become an increasingly important method of consumer engagement. “More than 500 million hours of video content are watched on YouTube every day. And 72 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds,” says Muro, who also points out that 51% of marketers globally see the best return on investment with video content.

“Digital and social media is a major vehicle of our communication program,” says Stephanie Barlow, senior director of communications for National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) in Winter Springs, Fla. “The health, value and versatility of watermelon are our key pillars.”

“In consumer surveys, we’ve found that 87 percent of people say they are more likely to purchase watermelon knowing that it is healthy and nutritious,” she continues. “This represents a huge opportunity for the industry and retailers to promote its health benefits.”

During “resolution season,” NWPB partners with influencers to create videos of easy-to-make, healthy smoothies using watermelon. The content spotlights the use of watermelon year-round. “The videos outperform static content, reaching hundreds of thousands with our messages and recipe inspiration,” says Barlow. “In the last year, we’ve created even more video content, both recipe-focused and Facebook Live demonstrations because of the strong engagement we receive from consumers.”

“Shoppers will be looking for new items in January as they renew their commitment to improving their health and wellness,” says Teri Gibson, director of marketing and customer relations for Peri & Sons Farms of Yerington, Nev., which recently launched a new mini display bin for Sunions (a tearless sweet onion) that includes an eye-catching, no-tears pop-up sign and other POS materials.

Knowing the increasing importance of social media and video communication, Peri & Sons isin production for its newest easy-healthy-quick video featuring Sunions sweet onions. “Our minimal-ingredient, veggie-based recipe is perfect for millennials looking for fast but tasty dishes that align with plant-based diets,” Gibson says. “Our recipes are also perfect those looking to add more good years onto their lives through healthful eating.”

The recipe video is part of an Instagram sweepstakes with which Peri & Sons has partnered with Farm Star Living to develop and launch this month.


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