Cause Marketing: What Is in Your Store’s DNA?


Last week, at the National Grocers Association Annual Convention, I presented the topline findings from our annual 2012 NGA SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey. As part of the session, we invited four powerhouse industry leaders to have a candid and unrehearsed discussion about the major themes and findings that we discovered.

All of the panelists, which included Bob Buonomano (Windham IGA), Tim Myers (Affiliated Foods Midwest), Ron Cook (Niemann Foods) and  Frank Kroger (Valassis), had much to share about the topics which ran the gamut from health and wellness to private label to cooking at home. Probably the most eye-opening discussion led us to an effort that most of the audience knew little about: Help Save the Butchers! ( started by Buonomano, a trained butcher since his early teen years.

This program, as Buonomano explains, has member stores worldwide and is focused on helping stores and their customers differentiate the beef, pork, chicken, lamb and veal sold in members’ stores with that sold in superstores. The program works. He shared that meat sales in his stores represent around 40% of sales and have among the highest margins of the foods he sells.

As the discussions continued, especially around cause marketing and its effectiveness, the panel all agreed that in order to be successful there had to be a focus and consistency. Whether helping a food bank effort or charity that was national or local, “less is more” if you want shoppers to respond positively. The more a store or group of stores spread their resources across varied cause marketing opportunities, the more diluted the message to the shopper became.

It became apparent as the discussion continued, that if the person in charge had a personal passion for the cause, as Bob does about butchers, the potential for success increases geometrically.

So why do some retailers move from event to event hoping that they will satisfy everyone with their cause marketing? Perhaps it is time to take the advice of this panel and take on the one or two efforts that you believe in — rather than spreading your resources across the many. The 2012 Survey found that over 56% of the U.S. adults surveyed would pay up to 2% more to buy their foods in stores that support causes they believe in and that nearly half would travel further to support a store that supports causes they believe in.


Phil Lempert is contributing editor of Supermarket News and CEO of The Lempert Report and

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