Touting health benefits bring sales gains

04/10/2014 10:19:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstIf you were living under a rock, there is a chance you might not have heard of a recent study from the United Kingdom indicating great health results (longer life) from eating seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The editorial in last week’s edition of The Packer addressed the significance of the study. In response to all the publicity, British retailer Sainsbury recently put out a press release touting sales gains in the produce department linked to publicity about the study.

The release said Sainsbury’s fresh fruit and vegetable category enjoyed double digit growth “over the last couple of days” after the release of the study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggesting consumers up their fruit and veggie consumption.

“We’ve long been committed to helping customers to eat their 5 a day and it seems that this new study has sparked some new enthusiasm for the challenge,” Charlotte Rhodes, Sainsbury’s Head of Produce, said in the release.

Sainsbury reported bean and celery sales were up 116%, onions were 95% higher, carrots 69% up and cucumbers and red peppers at better than 40% improved over the previous period.

The health study got big media play here in the U.S. and probably even greater attention in Britain. The bump in sales again suggests that marketing the health benefits of fruits and vegetables can pay off. As Sainsbury’s impressive sales gains suggest, the impulse by retailers, grower-shippers, and promotion bodies to tout the health benefits of fruits and vegetables is not merely altruistic.

 

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I recently hosted a “chat” in The Packer Market about the Sesame Street/PMA promotion. The chat, also hosted on Twitter under the hashtag #sesame, was another chance for industry to take measure of the initiative. Check out the conversation at http://thepackermarket.com/. Find a link there to an upcoming PMA web seminar about the initiative slated for April 17.

During the chat I asked what supermarkets are most likely to embrace the Sesame Street promotion. One participant perceptively suggested that leadership for the Sesame Street campaign must come from Wal-Mart, or it won’t happen at all. That’s a heavy lift, and one tends to sympathize with that burden placed on the Arkansas-based mega retailer. After all, Wal-Mart is typically assigned the duty of speeding the pace of collective industry progress, such as the implementation of the Produce Traceability Initiative. Even so, Wal-Mart again must step up to the plate if the Sesame Street/PMA produce promotion campaign has any chance to create a national impression.

 

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My wife and I went to a spacious new Hy-Vee supermarket in Olathe, Kan., this week. The Hy-Vee that we used to go to — a couple of miles closer than the just unveiled version — shut its doors just before this new model concept opened.

The freshly minted Hy-Vee is beautiful to look at, including a very large produce department with much more fruit and vegetable variety than our old store. One of the first things that caught my eye about the produce department was a striking display of tropical fruit, including miniature pineapples and a massive jackfruit that was priced near $30.

It was nice to see several familiar and friendly faces among the staff transferred from the shuttered store. The spic and span Hy-Vee also features a comfortable sit-down restaurant (Market Grille) and bar attached to the east end of the store, with nearly 15 large flat screen televisions giving all the patrons a view to ESPN, Fox Sports and other assorted sports channels. Yes, the place could be date night and shopping trip rolled into one.

The store was full of people even at 9 p.m. As we were headed out the door, I suddenly thought “Where is the horse?” The token-operated rocking horse was a fixture at the old store. When our kids were young, they each took their turn on the gently rocking kiddie ride. Even though our kids are now in their 20s, we still have a touch of nostalgia for that old pony. Many a time, over the years, we exited the store after a shopping trip to the sight and sound of a contented youngster saddled up on that ride.

So I had to ask about the horse. One blue-shirted manager assured me that a new pony was en route; the one from the closed store was put out to pasture at another location. He and another Hy-Vee employee said that a remarkable number of customers asked about the whereabouts of the horse.

Give us this pristine new concept store. Wow us with the jackfruit, the upscale restaurant, the excellent deli. But, please, don’t forget the pony ride.



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