California program provides retail produce boost - The Packer

California program provides retail produce boost

05/09/2013 11:43:00 AM
Pamela Riemenschneider

click image to zoomnetwork for a healthy california fruit and veggie festNetwork for a Healthy CaliforniaGilroy, Calif.-based Arteaga's Food Center partcipates in the Network for a Healthy California Program, which is hosts Fruit and Veggie Fests during May at select retailers. Across the state, retailers in low-income neighborhoods are getting a boost in produce from the Network for a Healthy California Retail Program.

The program is gearing up for its annual Fruit and Veggie Fests in May, with more than 17 retailers signed up to participate in the 7-year-old program.

For Arteaga’s Food Center, a Gilroy, Calif.-based chain with locations mostly in low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area, the events were a kick start to helping shoppers make healthy decisions in-store, said owner Lupe Lopez. Lopez said her stores now offer produce demos to get children and parents thinking of creative ways to eat more fruits and vegetables, and the chain hosts a Healthy Halloween promotion in the fall.

“We were one of the first supermarkets to join the program,” Lopez said. “We decided it was great to provide different alternatives for people, especially in low-income communities where they don’t tend to get the information about the great produce available.”

Lopez said she’s seen produce sales increase in the double digits since joining the program.

“The trend is that my produce sales increase, but my carbonated drinks and beer have actually decreased,” she said.

Lopez offers ideas in her stores to get customers thinking of different ways to eat fruits and vegetables. She said snacking ideas do well.

“Take green beans, for example,” she said. “If you cook them in a way that they’re almost like a snack, we sell a lot of them. The recipes have actually increased sales on our green beans.”

With help from the program, Lopez also is pilot testing a Healthy Checkout Lane at her stores to give parents an option to avoid candy and snacks. Carlos Torres, retail program manager for the network in the Bay Area, said Arteaga’s is one of the first stores in the network to trial this initiative.

Torres said the network has information for stores to not only increase fresh produce sales, but also promote a healthful lifestyle. They offer posters for easy exercises using common items like water bottles and watermelons as weights.

The network also offers recipe books tailored to the communities it serves, available on the network’s website.

“Every month, we include a produce of the month recipe,” Torres said.

The books also give retailers ideas to promote interesting produce options in-store.

“We like to change it up,” Torres said. “For example, it’s starting to get warm in some parts of California. We have information for make-your-own spa water with lemons or cucumbers. That gives consumers the idea to drink vegetables with water.”

There are more than 700 retail locations working with the program throughout the state, Torres said. Working with retailers in the community is one of the most important ways for the network to reach consumers.

“We’re trying to connect with the parents, kids and grandparents and show them that healthy eating is not just an opportunity to get healthier, it also helps build a stronger community,” he said. “Working with retailers gives them the opportunity to show that they’re part of the community and want to make a difference.”

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