ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kowalski's Markets has deemed its unique nutrition program, launched earlier this year, a definite success, and will continue it, officials told SN.
The program, “Good Foods for Good Health — A Celebration of Eating Well,” spotlights a particular facet of health awareness for a three-month period.
Set apart by its simplicity and by flagging foods known to do specific jobs, such as strengthening a person's immune system or improving bone health, the program is unique — at least in this market area.
“The program has done what we wanted it to do, and it's not going away. I think it will become part of our organization,” said Kris Kowalski-Christiansen, chief operating officer at the nine-unit, family-owned independent.
The first segment, launched in the spring, focused on bone health, and the second on brain health. The current one, running through December, spotlights cardiac health.
Kowalski-Christiansen and Sue Moores, a registered dietitian and consultant, who helped develop and administer the program, both told SN that customer response has been enthusiastic.
Indeed, customers themselves came up with some ideas on how to expand the program, such as making it interactive with the addition of scheduled seminars and related store tours.
Community organizations such as United Hospitals and the local chapter of the American Heart Association have asked to be involved.
“A representative of United Hospitals had an idea for a seminar in which heart attack survivors would tell their stories as a way to bring awareness [to the importance of maintaining cardiac health],” Kowalski-Christiansen said.
“Our dietitian, Sue Moores, too, is getting involved in outreach programs. She's already gone out to the schools to explain our program and how to use it. Sue's approach is completely positive. She's not telling people what not to do, but what they can do to help themselves.”
Kowalski's store-level associates added their own suggestions — suggestions that are already being acted upon.
“Here's an example,” Kowalski-Christiansen said. “Our associates wore badges that showed the program's logo, and they were trained and ready to answer questions from customers, but they told us nobody was asking them questions. So we had new badges made up that say in large letters, ‘Ask Me About Our Nutrition Program,’ with the program's logo printed below.”
Customers thanked Kowalski's for making things easy.
“They also expressed surprise at some of the products flagged. For instance, they might have known blueberries and fish were good for brain health, but romaine lettuce and oatmeal were a surprise to them. That was gratifying to me, and to them, to find that they were already eating a lot of the flagged items.”
The whole team at Kowalski's is involved. The chefs have developed several recipes that earned a flag.
“We gave them the information, and they said they had fun developing entrees and salads, for instance, that fit,” Moores said. “They created a wonderful quinoa salad. I'd say half the salads got a flag for brain health. Also, in produce, 85% of the items were flagged, both for bone and brain health.”
The overall healthiness of fresh produce actually created a logistics problem. Flags on so many items got in the way. They sometimes got knocked down and/or obscured the product.
Then there was the labor intensity involved. So now, for this quarter, which began Oct. 1, flagging has been minimized, replaced with one larger sign for designated sections of the produce case, with the logo, and then a line that says something like, “All apples are heart healthy.”
With flexibility built into the program, there is a lot being talked about for future segments, Kowalski-Christiansen said.
“After we've covered the major health awareness segments, we might create some mini segments, such as one focusing on skin health, or on eating for increased energy.”