LANDOVER, Md. -- Giant Food has become the most recent example of how retailers can work with organizations like the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association to boost produce consumption, and raise the profile of produce in the retail environment.
Retailers have been calling on suppliers to assist them with selling product through to consumers. The Produce For Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., has emerged as one of the leading programs supermarkets -- and Giant in particular -- are using to accomplish this. PBH recently honored Giant with an Excellence Award for its ongoing, innovative support of the "Eat 5 to 9 A Day for Better Health" campaign. Paulette Thompson, a registered dietitian who is Giant's food and nutrition coordinator, accepted the award on behalf of the 199-store chain.
"We feel a responsibility to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables in our stores that are easy to prepare," she told SN. "It's really a pleasure to see that we're recognized for that because it's something we want to do anyway."
The 5 A Day program serves as an umbrella theme for Giant's produce department sales strategy. The company has different ways of incorporating the 5 A Day theme into promotions, but one of the most visible efforts involves teaching the youngest consumers out there why it's important to eat fruits and vegetables.
Giant last year revamped its school tour program for children in preschool and elementary school, updating an activity book distributed during store tours, which had not been changed in a decade, Thompson said. The new version includes more references to the 5 A Day message, and the 5 A Day The Color Way campaign, mixed in with the word scrambles, hidden pictures and other exercises.
At the same time, the company made a 12-minute employee training video that offered pointers on handling school tours. Last year, about 8,000 schoolchildren took tours of the stores, and everyone got a complementary piece of fruit to take home.
Associate training is an important part of Giant's overall commitment to the produce department. Managers see to it that associates are drilled on the significance of food colors and associated nutritional benefits so that they can answer any questions consumers have with respect to the color theory behind the 5 A Day The Color Way campaign. PBH and Dole Banana staffers also have conducted manager training sessions, Thompson said.
"It's a constant educational piece to train and teach the benefits of the program," she said.
Another successful promotion linked Giant, PBH, and the Dole Food Co. and Crayola crayon brands to encourage children to eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. Dubbed "There's a Rainbow on My Plate," the promotion in March 2003 displayed Crayola erasable crayons in produce departments, with free coloring books for anyone who bought the crayons. PBH sent curriculum kits directly to schools, encouraging the schools to arrange supermarket tours. Repeated again this year, the promotion ties into the 5 A Day The Color Way campaign.
"We found it was a wonderful promotion," Thompson said. "The stores sold out of crayons and coloring books."
Giant also features the fruit and vegetable message at least twice a year on its Kids Corner placemats, displayed on three-sided kiosks at the front of the stores, for consumers to take home.
Giant enhanced ad support last year when the company started featuring a monthly consumer advisory column on some aspect of the produce color theory, or a featured produce item and health benefits associated with its particular color. The column ran on the produce page of the store circular, with the 5 A Day The Color Way logo. The monthly column continues to be appear regularly, Thompson said.
The company has not tracked the impact of its 5 A Day support on produce sales, but officials believe the constant visible efforts to convey the health benefits of produce to consumers does nothing but encourage sales, said Thompson. She spoke on behalf of David Lessard, director of produce and floral for Giant, and one of the company's biggest supporters of the 5 A Day program.
"He feels it's a point of difference for us," Thompson said.
Teaching consumers how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables is another priority for the stores.
In produce departments, Giant offers 36-card recipe racks that change with the seasons. The recipe program is a collaboration between the produce and consumer affairs departments. Produce associates are responsible for keeping the racks filled with cards, while staff in consumer affairs develop, test and proof the recipes.
"We've become known for our recipe program," Thompson said. "We've gotten compliments on our recipes."