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    PG Retailer of the Year: Health on an Accessible Shelf

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ

    PG's 2014 Retailer of the Year coverage continues with Ahold USA's COO James McCann discussing the company's health and wellness initiatives that factor prominently in its Better Neighbor mission.

    As it strives to become a great place to shop, whether in stores or online, another priority for Ahold USA is helping its divisions provide customers with a variety of health-and-wellness resources so they can make healthier choices for themselves and their families. McCann cites the Healthy Ideas on-shelf labeling program, developed by the company’s in-store nutritionists, which covers thousands of national and private brands sporting blue-and-green shelf tags to help customers identify healthy and “free-from” options.

    “People are increasingly becoming more interested in the provenance of product, and the companies that produce it,” explains McCann, “as well as [foods’] nutritional and allergic aspects.” He notes that 49 percent of households “have somebody with a special dietary requirement. Whatever we can do to make it simpler and more affordable for families to eat well is critical in our Better Neighbor mission.”

    In-store Nutritionists Add Healthy New Dimension

    So, too, is the expansion by its retail divisions of an in-store nutritionist program, which has been recently enhanced to emphasize the integration of the pharmacist and nutritionist. The first in-store nutritionist came aboard in 2005; several divisions now plan to deploy more nutritionists by 2015. “They’re wonderful people that lend a whole new dimension to stores,” McCann says, noting their integral role in the company’s Passport to Nutrition health-and-wellness program, which uses various interactive tools to teach children about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. The program provides student workbooks that highlight small changes kids can make, such as building a balanced plate with appropriate portion sizes and learning how to read food labels.

    “Nutrition is not the same when you’re 20-something, versus when you’re 40-something. Understanding how your body’s needs change over time, and those of your family, as well as when diseases or intolerances are diagnosed,” requires a whole new skill set when food shopping, McCann acknowledges. “Nutritionists provide a service that helps customers stay healthy and live longer, happier lives. And hopefully, they’ll reward us by coming in to shop with us.”

    McCann brings a palpable sense of urgency, and equally evident fervor, to his marshaling of the company’s vast talent, resources, infrastructure and energies “to do more for customers than anyone else. Our divisions are in local communities where associates live, and they are absolutely a part of the neighborhoods that we operate in. So, when you look at how to become a great retailer, we believe it’s just not possible without first being a great neighbor, along with being a great place to work and a great place to shop. This is absolutely the foundation of a fundamental journey that we are on. And by putting it into these three simple ‘promises,’ everybody can understand the importance” of the mission at hand, he asserts.

    “Customers tell us that the three things they want from us are to be able to save money, save time and feed their families well,” explains McCann. “When they come into when they come into Stop & Shop or Giant, they are looking for that bundle of things, and the reason we put these promises forth is that we have a measure of how we are doing against them. And if we do those three things better than anyone else, which is the goal, then customers will shop with us because they like — and increasingly, hopefully love — what we offer, in the way that we offer it. That’s our entire purpose, and we know that if we’re succeeding on all the above, we can reinvest money back into banners, and ultimately, the customer proposition.

    “I feel very proud about our associates and the work that they do,” McCann concludes, “and our grass-roots involvement makes all the difference.”

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    • About Meg Major Veteran supermarket industry journalist Meg Major brings a wealth of experience to her role as Chief Content Editor of Progressive Grocer. In addition to her editorial duties, Major also spearheads the retail food industry’s premier women’s leadership recognition platform, Top Women in Grocery. Follow her on Twitter at @Meg_Major, connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/megmajor, or email her at [email protected]

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