Convenience still tops most priority lists when it comes to putting an evening meal on the table, but convenience and healthy alternatives can be combined.
What's more, such a venture can be pretty profitable, as one New Jersey retailer has proved.
Food Town/Food Circus has launched an in-store-cut vegetable program, featuring an expanding variety, on overwrapped foam trays. The surprise is that sales have soared to heights nobody expected.
“I'm actually amazed at how well it's doing, “ said Bob Gould, produce supervisor at the 10-unit independent, based in Middletown, N.J.
In fact, Gould told SN earlier this month that he expects the program, now in eight stores, to ring up $100,000 its first year.
“It'll get even better. Consumers today just don't have time to chop and slice, so we're doing it for them, and they tell us they love it.”
Stir-fry mix is the biggest seller, probably because it is cross-merchandised in the meat case. Other varieties include fresh-cut green and yellow squash, peppers and onions, and broccoli and cauliflower florets. Random-weight packs, sold by the pound at $3.99, occupy 2 or 3 feet in the produce case.
Another source, a food-service operator, told SN that she has been using whole grains in more casseroles and other recipes and telling customers about it via point-of-sale materials and table tents. It's an idea that could work for supermarkets' prepared food departments.
Giving customers information is a big part of making it easy for them to take the healthy road.
“I don't know why retailers don't put more information on shelf talkers,” said consultant Howard Solganik, partner in Culinary Resources, Dayton, Ohio.
Mark Brigido, president of four-unit Brigido's Markets, North Providence, R.I., has taken up that challenge. “One of our next projects is to do whatever we can do with signage — a whole new program throughout the store — to educate customers about the health benefits of various items,” he said.
The benefits of fruits and vegetables are pretty well known, but it's difficult to get kids to eat enough of them, and parents, haunted by reports of childhood obesity, are happy to get some help. One simple, creative effort by a Seattle-area retailer was described by consultant Harold Lloyd, president/founder of Harold Lloyd Presents, Virginia Beach, Va.
“The store had placed a big, colorful piggy bank right in the middle of a produce case,” Lloyd said. “A sign in front of the pig urged people to deposit a quarter and then take a piece of fruit.”