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Inserra Supermarkets, which owns and operates 22 ShopRite stores in New Jersey and New York, is taking a multifaceted approach to encouraging its customers to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Its new Meal of the Week program aims to help people serve nutritious meals more often. Stores feature a different, easy-to-prepare recipe weekly, and then merchandise all of the ingredients together in a refrigerated case. Inserra has introduced the program in more than a dozen of its stores, with plans for further expansion later this year.
“We’ve had a lot of positive customer feedback for Meal of the Week,” says Dana McLaughlin, the retail dietitian for Inserra’s ShopRite in Wallington, N.J. “They really appreciate the diversity of the recipes, and we make sure that there’s two different vegetables in each recipe, and different proteins.” Vegetarian recipes are also popular.
“Convenience is the biggest factor,” notes McLaughlin. “Customers can purchase all the ingredients in one area, and often the produce may already be partially prepared, like an onion that’s diced.” In the Wallington store, coolers featuring the Meal of the Week ingredients are stationed between the produce and meat departments.
“The No. 1 comment we hear from customers is their lack of time to prepare produce, particularly with vegetables,” says McLaughlin, one of a team of dietitians who work at 10 Inserra ShopRite stores. “A big part of changing that is education and encouraging simple ways to include fruits and vegetables in their diet.”
Inserra ShopRite stores also demo a Produce Pick each week. “We feature a fruit or vegetable in the ShopRite circular and offer handouts that we give to customers looking for new ideas,” explains McLaughlin. The handouts offer tips on purchasing, preparing and storing a different fruit or veggie each week.
“Our goal with customers is to get them to try one new fruit or vegetable each week,” says McLaughlin. “It’s a very reachable goal and encourages a gradual increase in consumption.”
Capturing a High Profile Halo
While shoppers choose where to buy groceries based on the freshness and quality of the produce department, the vast majority of them are still falling short of consuming the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
In “The Power of Produce 2016: An In-depth look at Produce Through the Shoppers’ Eyes,” Food Marketing Institute (FMI) found that most shoppers readily admit to not eating enough fresh produce, and 75 percent report that they’re trying to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The study, published by Arlington, Va.-based FMI and prepared by San Antonio-based 210 Analytics, reveals tremendous opportunities in the fresh produce business.
To seize those opportunities, grocers, suppliers and industry organizations alike are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to drive greater consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“We have a job ahead of us, if we’re ever going to get to half of the plate – our goal,” says Kathy Means, VP of industry relations for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), in Newark, Del. “We’ve got a long way to go. But we look at it as an opportunity. What other food can say you should double consumption?”
Means, who sees many reasons for optimism when it comes to boosting fruit and veggie intake, points to the success of a number of high-profile marketing campaigns in the fresh produce industry.
“We often think about produce as a monolith, but it isn’t,” she asserts. “We’re in an industry where we’re competing against soda, chips and candy. It requires marketing to sell it.”
One of the industry’s notable branding efforts has been the “Sesame Street” Eat Brighter! campaign, introduced by Sesame Workshop and PMA in 2013. The program, which has about 60 supplier participants and 60 retailers (representing 30,000 stores) licensed to use the “Sesame Street” assets, will run through 2018.
According to PMA, suppliers report sales are up consistently by 3 percent year over year.
But Eat Brighter is just one of a number of highly successful campaigns in fresh produce. “We continue to see greater sophistication in marketing from the produce industry,” affirms Means, who points to the campaigns of brands like Wonderful Halos, Cuties, Wonderful Pistachios, and Avocados from Mexico with its 2016 Super Bowl commercial.
Means also applauds the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission for promoting avocados at breakfast, thereby expanding the fruit’s eating occasions. “Even established brands like Sunkist, Del Monte and Chiquita are placing greater emphasis on ad tie-ins and social media – all of those things are important to growing the industry,” she says.