CEO: STRESS NUTRITION IN CENTER STORE AISLES

SHAWNEE, Okla. -- Retailers could capitalize more on the benefits of healthy living in their Center Store aisles by accenting the nutritional advantages of conventional products and stressing organic and natural products, according to J.B. Pratt, chief executive officer of Pratt Foods Supermarkets here.Pratt presented a case study on promoting health and wellness in conventional supermarkets at the

SHAWNEE, Okla. -- Retailers could capitalize more on the benefits of healthy living in their Center Store aisles by accenting the nutritional advantages of conventional products and stressing organic and natural products, according to J.B. Pratt, chief executive officer of Pratt Foods Supermarkets here.

Pratt presented a case study on promoting health and wellness in conventional supermarkets at the Nutracon 2000 conference last week in Las Vegas.

The key, he said, is for retailers to take an integrated approach when merchandising their center aisles, which are often seen as being rife with refined sugars and greasy chips. "We are trying to introduce the conventional shopper to a healthier lifestyle. We have to start with the basics," said Pratt.

For example, encouraging the purchase of whole-grain products works well in Center Store, and Cheerios are a good example of a conventional product that can be incorporated into the whole-health movement, he said.

"Cheerios are a whole-grain product, so we put the whole-health wheel on boxes of Cheerios," said Pratt, referring to a label designed by his store.

Pratt also sees huge potential in the bottled-water category, as filtered water is viewed as being essential to human health and well-being by holistic practitioners. All the bottled waters in his stores feature the whole-health wheel and are marketed as an integral part of a healthy diet.

Another successful strategy has been alternating endcaps between conventional and organic or natural products. Pratt said he had a lot of luck with a recent endcap featuring Sunrise organic cereal, and that a gallon-size Mountain Sun organic apple juice endcap also sold very well.

"But we have to offer choices. We have to have endcaps of mainstream sodas as well," Pratt said.

An area of particular relevance to Center Store is the processed organic-food niche, satisfying the health-conscious consumer looking for the signature convenience of processed foods.

Processed organic is the fastest-growing organic segment, according to Pratt. And the nutritional currency of the organic label extends beyond the actual growing methods in the processed-foods category.

"There's an extra advantage for Center Store here aside from the pesticide issue," he said. "In the organic processed foods, there are also limits placed on artificial colors and preservatives and the level of processing."

In an effort to educate consumers, Pratt's pulls information from nutrition-oriented brochures found in the store and displays it near appropriate items. For example, a laminated card explaining the advantages of organically produced foods will be found underneath the organic cereal.

"We're not just saying go over and read the brochure. The move toward whole health is an integrated package that's got to include the whole store," Pratt concluded.