FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, has joined Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., as a major player in the M-Fit Shelf Labeling Program developed by the MedSport Preventive Cardiology Clinic of the University of Michigan Medical Center.
Fleming's newly acquired division here put the program's color-coded tags on its shelves July 28, the day the 20-store unit changed its name from Woolley's Fine Foods to Hyde Park Markets. The M-Fit program is just one of several health-oriented services offered by Hyde Park Markets.
Some Spartan Stores customers, as well as some stores served by wholesaler Super Food Services, Miamisburg, Ohio, make up the bulk of the remaining 70-plus stores participating in M-Fit.
As customers shop in M-Fit stores, they come across green or yellow shelf tags in the included categories. Green triangles indicate products that are a "Best Choice" for healthy eating; yellow triangles indicate an "Acceptable Choice." The university has researched more than 12,000 items across all store departments and will continue to add to that number. Donna DeCunzo, a nutritionist and director of consumer affairs for Hyde Park, said consumers have responded favorably to the program, which is heavily touted in the chain's weekly circulars. "It's too early to tell right now," she said when asked if sales of tagged products have increased. "But the comments we're getting from shoppers have been good."
DeCunzo said studies by Hyde Park and by the Food Marketing Institute show 96% of customers desire or greatly desire nutritional information on the products they buy. Such studies show the need for approaches like Hyde Park's, she said.
"As a dietitian I was in private practice before joining Fleming and Hyde Park. The problem I had with my clients is that they would go to the hospital or the doctor and the doctor would tell them, 'You need a low-sodium diet. Goodbye.' But no more information was given," she said.
DeCunzo said Hyde Park is trying to help those who need or want to eat healthily without having to shop in specialty stores.
"You can go to a regular supermarket and learn how to use those foods to eat a healthy diet. You don't have to go pay three times the amount in a special store because you need a special type of food. Most of those foods aren't any better than what you get in a regular supermarket anyway."
Hyde Park Markets are not health food stores, DeCunzo added. "We're not trying to push nutrition down anybody's throat. It's just available for those people who are truly interested in it. We just have all this information available to you so that if you're trying to watch your diet for any reason, it's a little easier to do."
DeCunzo said the M-Fit shelf tag program is part of Hyde Park's commitment to educate its customers. She conducts store tours in which she not only explains M-Fit, but addresses other nutritional concerns. Hyde Park also has consumer information centers. Since September is National Cholesterol Education Month, DeCunzo is printing information on cholesterol to be available at these centers. She also plans to produce some literature on this month's National 5-A-Day Week.
The chain will also host wellness events, DeCunzo added. Health associations and hospitals are invited to the events to promote their services and offer free health screenings. Kathy Pompliano, a dietitian with M-Fit, said the program carries a one-time initiation fee of $1,500 to $2,500 per chain, plus annual costs for point-of-purchase materials. The program was developed after research conducted in the late 1980s led to the publication of the Grocery Shopping Guide. Pompliano said that concept was transformed into the M-Fit program about two years ago at the request of Busch's Valu Land, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Pompliano said a doctor in Hyde Park's trading area called her to say he's referring his patients to Hyde Park stores. Based on reports from other participating stores, she said Hyde Park can expect to see increased sales of tagged items.