Dave Worst, manager for Foodland in Parkersburg, W. Va., says, “My business is about turns. Candy bars turn, but I get $3.99 for a package of trail mix. How many candy bars do you have to sell for a $4 ring?” Worst’s Foodland designated a “Healthy Options Aisle” at the encouragement of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department. With a grant from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work program, the Mid-Ohio Valley secured the commitment of several Foodland and Wal-Mart stores to implement the Eat-Well-Play-Well pledge. The retailers agreed to create a health-centered checkout aisle, which included food items with high nutritional value and toys that promote physical activity.
“The first day, I was actually shocked at the amount of products we sold that we changed out,” Worst says. “The banana chips, the dried fruit and the individual prunes were a real big seller. I was kind of amazed it was actually working.”
Three Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. locations accepted the challenge, as well. Store manager Kevin Ohse reported triple sales for some items.
It was the first time Wal-Mart had opened healthy checkout lanes at multiple stores in one area, says Rebecca Payne, who directs the CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work campaign. “The response has been very, very solid from the West Virginia customers,” she says.
In Virginia, Martin’s Food Markets, a banner of Giant Food Stores LLC, Carlisle, Pa., followed suit with the Healthy Ideas checkout lane as part of a test project supported by a grant to Greater Richmond Fit4Kids and the Richmond City Health District from the Virginia Department of Health. Of the 23 Martin’s stores throughout the Richmond area, eight were selected to participate and dedicate two lanes as Healthy Ideas lanes.
You can look in almost any store and find a stand of bananas at the edge of the checkout lanes. That’s not what’s going to set you apart. You don’t want to neglect the bananas or the apples, but you do need to expand your thinking.
Your choices are actually more plentiful than the space you have to fill. Nuts, seeds, trail mix, dried fruit, granola, mandarin oranges — all of these items pose easy display possibilities. But you should also be thinking about what’s on ad, what your dietitian is promoting, what’s in season, and what’s locally grown — all with your store’s demographic in mind.