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United Expo Helps Shoppers Get Healthy

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For many, the resolution is the same: New Year, New You. It could be anything — lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, eat better. All intentions are good, but the reality of the task before you on Day One can be daunting.Where to start?

With supermarkets becoming destinations for all things wellness, it’s a natural place for consumers to look. And this year again, United Supermarkets didn’t let their customers down. The Lubbock, Texas-based chain’s Healthy New You Expo was held this past weekend at its Market Street format stores, offering everything from dietitian-led store tours to health screenings in the pharmacy.

 

Alicia Jerome, one of United’s corporate dietitians, took a few minutes to tell us how the multi-day even went.

How did it go? Tell us about the turnout and some of the highlights. What aspect was most popular with guests this year?

The stores were full of guests. One of the highlights was the health screening. Our Plano store screened more than 50 guests the first day of the Expo and other stores had a similar response. Guests always love sampling new foods and Market Street's signature recipes. The demo staff mentioned several times that guests were pleasantly surprised with the Quorn Nuggets (meatless chicken nuggets). Another highlight was the interest generated in our dietitian-led grocery shopping tours. The number of people registering for a January or February tour nearly doubled over the course of the two-day event.

This seems to be a massive undertaking. When does planning start? How many stores are involved? How is it organized?

Planning for the Expo begins at the start of the new fiscal year. There were 10 Market Streets involved (there will be 11 going forward, as we are opening a new location this week). Business managers seek the input of the dietitians on which products might be highlighted. This year, the dietitians provided the business managers with a list of "Dietitian's Top Picks" which are items that receive the highest NuVal scores in each category. Many of these items were used as samples for the demo. Stores also gathered more than half of the 300+ Dietitian Top Pick products and displayed them at the front of the store. Once products are chosen, vendor partners are invited to participate.

It’s great that you can incorporate various departments into the expo, with actual products (deli salads) or services (pharmacy screening). Tell us a bit more about the total-store strategy and communicating this to shoppers.

We like to think of Market Street as a "destination", so it's very important for us to involve the entire store in every Expo as much as possible. This is especially true with our Healthy New You Expo, as we are still trying to establish ourselves as a destination for health and wellness products and services. Communication for the Expo is done through social media, weekly emails and in-store signage. Sampling stations are strategically placed throughout the entire store like grocery "breadcrumbs," leading to all the different departments. Several stores had designated NuVal champs positioned near the entrance to invite people in, show off the Dietitian's Top Picks, provide a Shop with the Dietitian tour schedule, a heart-healthy shopping guide and invite guests to visit each department to try new foods.

United uses the NuVal system. How are customers adapting? Is there still a knowledge gap in regards to nutrition education?

As long as we welcome new guests through our doors, there will always be guests to educate; however more and more guests are learning about and using NuVal to grocery shop. Numerous guests have attended the Shop with the Dietitian tours and learned how to shop for diabetes-, heart healthy- and food allergy-friendly products, using NuVal as a compass. The demo staff at each Expo was trained on NuVal and the Dietitian's Top Pick so they could share with guests. At this weekend's Expo, we also began rolling out disease-specific shopping guides to supplement the information provided by NuVal. This past weekend we introduced the heart-healthy guide and will roll out similar publications for diabetes, weight management and gluten-free in the coming weeks.

What was new about this year’s expo? How has it changed since it was first held?

Expos this year will move from a one-weekend event to any every weekend of the month event, providing more opportunities to reach our guests. There will be a bigger focus on products that represent healthy patterns and habits for the guests. And we’ll have more education, engaging the guests with ideas for alternative food health solutions, more breadth of products and expansion of gluten-free items.

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