Independent retailers don’t often have the same deep pockets and extensive in-house resources as the large national chains, but that hasn’t stopped many of them from getting into health and wellness education and marketing.
We were recently reminded of that when we spoke to Remke bigg’s, the 13-store chain in Erlanger, Ky., that has enlisted outside help in jumps-starting an ambitious customer education program that addresses a variety of current health topics.
“We’ve done things like back-to-school, how to eat on the go, healthy children, and diabetes,” said Connie Flynn, the retailer’s community relations director. “They’re all very focused on wellness.”
The ongoing series of in-store classes is called A Taste of Health and is a cooperative venture between Remke bigg’s chefs and nutrition and health experts from St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the top medical provider in the Cincinnati, Ohio and northern Kentucky region.
The venture helps both organizations conduct more effective outreach. For Remke bigg’s, there are the additional benefits of not having to hire a staff dietitian or nutritionist, since that expertise is provided by St. Elizabeth’s; also, the events are held in Remke bigg’s stores.
“We’ve put a really nice partnership together where we have a great opportunity to teach people how to eat at a location where they can see and purchase those foods,” said Flynn.
The in-store sessions are held in the five stores with café areas. The medical center’s experts handle the technical details of the session while the Remke bigg’s chefs oversee the culinary tie-in.
So, for example, a recent talk about nutrient dense foods included a recipe for “Power Packed mac ‘n cheese,” a protein-rich version of the popular, but fattening, side dish. Chefs also developed “Asparamole,” a healthy take on guacamole that substitutes grilled, pureed asparagus for the avocado.
“We put a little spin on foods people already know and are familiar with and try to make it more healthy,” Flynn said.
The talks are free but require registration. The open location often attracts shoppers passing by and they end up stopping and listening in, according to Flynn. There are recipe cards available, as are the ingredients needed to make each item.
“If you can catch people while they’re there and set them up with the recipe and whatever they need to make that food, you’re going to be successful in getting them thinking more about healthy eating,” notes Flynn.
The quarterly program has met with such success within the community that Remke bigg’s and St. Elizabeth are planning on taking the program to local schools and hosting family cooking workshops in between presentations.