Supermarket Wellness Watch: From Kroger to Hannaford, retailers embrace family meals efforts

You are what you eat. Or is it who you eat with?

Well, it turns out both matter!

The food retail industry is about to enter the third year of the September National Family Meals Month program. So as a curtain raiser, it’s a good time to assess the diverse retailer efforts of last year – from Kroger and The Little Clinic to Hannaford — and take a peek at a couple of upcoming initiatives

But first, what is National Family Meals Month, and given this is a blog about supermarket wellness, how does this program tie in?

This campaign, sponsored by Food Marketing Institute Foundation, aims to “bring families back to the table and share one more meal at home per week.” It involves retailers, suppliers and community partners and takes a broad view of family to include “different shapes, sizes and forms, even your work family,” said Susan Borra, chief health and wellness officer and executive director of the FMI Foundation.  

National Family Meals Month promotes social interaction, and much of the emphasis is on healthy eating. In fact, people who eat more family meals together tend to have healthier diets than other groups, said Borra, a registered dietitian.

A number of innovative retailer efforts from last year were profiled in a recently introduced best practices guide, and many of these involved health and wellness tie-ins.

Kroger presented a multi-tiered, omnichannel program, which included leveraging The Little Clinic to discuss family meals with patients and to distribute an educational booklet with recipes and tips.

The company will follow up this year with another multi-pronged approach, according to a spokesperson. The Little Clinic, which operates 220 locations, will distribute a recipe booklet to patients that encourages families to cook together and provides nutrition resources. It will also promote the event through its blog and patient e-newsletter.

Moreover, the clinic’s dietitians are hosting four wellness events focused on the meal month theme. “The dietitians will show families the value of cooking together and experimenting with healthful ingredients in the kitchen,” according to the spokesperson. Several Kroger dietitians will also be holding food and wine events.

Hannaford, part of Ahold Delhaize, last year unveiled a tie-in program called “Good Ideas for Busy Families,” which built on its existing “Guiding Stars Good Ideas” wellness initiative. The effort included in-store signage featuring family-friendly and healthful recipe ideas and special product pricing. The company developed a booklet that outlined healthy shopping tips and recipe ideas for each store department, and leveraged dietitians for nutrition demos, said Sue Till, manager of Hannaford’s Healthy Living program.

This year Hannaford will employ a wide range of strategies to support its activities, including social media, web, fresh magazine, in-store signage, coupons and its weekly flyer. 

The involvement of registered dietitians was a signature aspect of retailer efforts in last year’s program. Here are a few other examples:

  • Price Chopper: Dietitians and educators in some 26 stores conducted events that included taste testing and recipes.
  • Wakefern Food: Dietitians engaged customers both in-store and on social media to raise the profile of the program.
  • Skogen’s Festival Foods: Registered dietitians were promoted as “Mealtime Mentors” who can suggest quick meals and healthy eating ideas.

There’s a lot of room for further retailer innovation in this annual campaign, and for other retail channels to get involved. Moreover, it’s a unique way to cross-merchandise and brand the rest of a retailer’s operation and services.

It seems that retailers are hoping to make it a September to remember.

David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker who was the longtime chief editor and content leader of Supermarket News. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s blog post, click here

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