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This September, 17-store Baltimore-area grocery store chain Mars Super Markets, together with Savage, Md.-based produce supplier East Coast Fresh, will be the first retail partner to introduce the Eat Brighter! initiative in stores.
Created by the Produce Marketing Association, Sesame Workshop and the Partnership for a Healthier America, the family-oriented program offers royalty-free access to "Sesame Street" characters in a bid to boost fruit and vegetable consumption among children.
The need for such an initiative in Baltimore and beyond is clear, according to industry observer Jeremy Diamond, of the city's Diamond Marketing Group.
"The child obesity rate has been increasing across the country, as well as in Baltimore area," he points out to Progressive Grocer. "With unemployment at a high level in many cities, grocery shoppers have been flocking towards ready-made, high-sodium, high-sugar foods which take little time to prepare. Combine that with the mentality of 'instant gratification' in American society. Technology has unfortunately played a large part in this issue as well. Smartphones, tablets [and] on-demand media streaming have trained our minds that families don't have time to prepare healthy meals. Food deserts, unemployment rates and ethnic cultures also play a factor in this."
Adds Diamond: "Mars is doing a good thing by getting involved in this much-needed issue. They are the largest homegrown Baltimore-based grocery chain, at 17 stores, and are not afraid to get involved in these types of causes. They are still family-owned by the D’Anna family and support local suppliers when possible.
For more on how retailers and suppliers are appealing to kids in the fresh produce category, read the PG August 2014 print issue story "Cartoon Boom."