LUBBOCK, Texas - United Supermarkets here is promoting regional specialty foods from Texas salsas to California nuts in a month-long, Independence Day-themed event.
"Foods of the U.S.A." is the name of United's latest "expo," as it calls its themed presentations of product sampling and special prices. The expos, which United began hosting in March 2005 to promote itself as a specialty foods retailer, take place in its five upscale Market Street stores and one of its larger United stores, in Abilene. The expos culminate in a day of extensive sampling, entertainment and health presentations.
For this event, which was scheduled to take place July 22, stores sampled about 15 regional fresh, dry and frozen foods and had entertainment keeping with the Independence Day theme, from cooking and hot-dog-eating contests to a bicycle rodeo. One store took shoppers around the store on a mini-train.
Pets are the health focus this month. The retailers are offering special prices on Castor & Pollux, Swheat Scoop cat litter and other specialty pet products. On the 22nd, stores had animal welfare and adoption groups on-site and contests for owners and their pets.
Like all of United's expos, "Foods of the U.S.A." provides a platform for trying out new items and promoting specialty foods that can be unfamiliar and pricey, said Susan Sexton, a Living Well specialist at United. Living Well is the name of United's marketing initiative to promote a healthy and upscale image.
"We're trying to make our guests understand what we're carrying," she said. "If it's a new product, and especially if it has a high price point, it can be scary to buy it without tasting it."
Offering tastes and suggesting uses for the foods is critical to overcoming that resistance. This month, for example, stores are sampling halibut with mango lime salsa from Cherith Valley Gardens, a Texas company, in the seafood department. The July Living Well flier offers a recipe for the dish.
"That is a scary thing, bringing in new items," Sexton said. "Especially with specialty; those things can just sit on the shelf. So this is a way to try something out."
Sexton said sampling during the expos has helped sell other products, from Greek yogurt to Cugino's four-cheese garlic spread to Gia Russa's whole wheat gnocchi, long after the demos ended.