(July 23, 11:04 a.m.) Recognizing a growing trend in the produce industry, many retailers have set their sights on children, developing special promotions and products to appeal to parents and their offspring.

One grocery store taking advantage of this opportunity is Publix Supermarkets Inc., Lakeland, Fla.

Publix has dedicated a section of its Web site to Produce for Kids (www.publix.com/produceforkids/) that includes an overview of the campaign, sponsor’s logos and recipes.

Produce for Kids is an Orlando, Fla.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healthy eating habits in children through education and parent resources.

“(The partnership with Produce for Kids) is a really good fit,” said Publix’s category marketing manager, Anne Hartwell. “This last year was the first year we got to incorporate our meal specialists.”

Using eight fruits and vegetables, the company formulated kid-friendly recipes. Stores scheduled a kids’ meal day, with the meal specialists helping the children prepare the food.

The promotion, on June 14, was called “Produce for Kids Day,” and featured cooking and tasting events for children and parents at select Publix stores, Hartwell said.

The program has been steadily gaining steam since Publix began it three years ago, Hartwell said.

“It’s getting some recognition, and we’ve now got vendors asking if they can participate,” she said. “The first couple of years there was a lot of interest, but now it’s to the point where we can select the vendors we want.”

PBH partnership

St. Louis-based Schnucks Markets Inc. is another grocer with promotions aimed at children, consisting of education and promotion within the store, and support for organizations encouraging fitness and healthy eating in local communities.

Many of Schnucks’ in-store efforts are concentrated on a partnership with the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del.

“We are a strong promoter of the (foundation’s Fruit & Veggies — ) More Matters program in our produce department,” said director of communications Lori Willis. “We work closely with teachers and (have) even entire classes about More Matters, (telling students) the more you eat, the better you are. It goes hand-in-hand.”

Schnucks also has a strong emphasis on fitness and produce, being a driving force behind the annual Jackie Joyner-Kersee Run, which benefits the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club, Willis said.

“Jackie is prominently featured in our produce department,” Willis said. “She’s becoming synonymous with the More Matters campaign.”

Another promotion Schnucks aims at children is the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s Get Checked & Get Fit initiative.

The program, founded by St. Louis Rams linebacker Chris Draft, is a wellness and nutrition camp for St. Louis area children.

“(Draft) has invited us to participate in the camps,” Willis said. “He’s very strong in health and nutrition for young people.”

Kids’ snacks

Whole Foods Market Inc., the Austin, Texas-based natural and organic supermarket, also is appealing to children through various products and promotions in the produce department.

“In the Southwest region we’re preparing take-out items ideal for kids,” said Libba Letton, spokeswoman for Whole Foods. “They’re little lunches or what we call ‘snackables,’ with diced ham or diced turkey, carrot sticks and fresh berries. Kids love them.”

Whole Foods also appeals to kids in a more traditional manner, through tasting items, Letton said.

“My kids love the items for tasting,” she said. “It takes us twice as long to get through the produce section because they have to taste the pineapple or the strawberries.”