FOOD CITY BECOMES 'EXPERT' IN HEALTH

ABINGDON, Va. -- For the past five or so years, K-VA-T Food Stores here has called its stores "The Food Experts." In a sign of the times, it expanded on that slogan last month by dubbing 37 of its 90 supermarkets "The Healthy Food Experts."The chain is disseminating health information in a variety of ways, including a newsletter, supplementary literature, shelf tags, recipes and coupons that promote

ABINGDON, Va. -- For the past five or so years, K-VA-T Food Stores here has called its stores "The Food Experts." In a sign of the times, it expanded on that slogan last month by dubbing 37 of its 90 supermarkets "The Healthy Food Experts."

The chain is disseminating health information in a variety of ways, including a newsletter, supplementary literature, shelf tags, recipes and coupons that promote whole-grain crackers, pasta, cereal and other Center Store groceries. There's also a new chain mascot, a red apple named Corey.

"Good nutrition and good health are more important for consumers than they've ever been before," Steven Smith, president and chief executive officer, K-VA-T, said in a statement. "The push for a healthier lifestyle is being emphasized at local, state and national levels."

The stores were chosen based on their proximity to the retailer's headquarters here and common advertising area. By the end of the year, all K-VA-T's Food City stores, in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, will operate the program.

Nutrition topics will rotate each quarter. Future themes include allergens, trans fat, calcium and dairy.

Food City chose whole grains to kick off the series because the government's revised dietary guidelines recommend eating at least 3 ounces of whole-grain products each day, Terry VanHuss, corporate home economist and director of the program, told SN.

Shelf tags highlight categories that contain products rich in whole grains.

"We felt it was necessary to provide health information for our consumers at the point of purchase," VanHuss said.

A new quarterly newsletter, "Fresh! Connection," available in store and online at www.foodcity.com, promotes the benefits of fiber, whole grains and complex carbohydrates. The four-page issue also includes $1 coupons for Zesta whole-wheat crackers, General Mills whole-grain Total, Kellogg Raisin Bran and Sara Lee 100% whole-wheat bread.

The first issue of "Fresh! Connection" also pushes K-VA-T's Food Club private label by including them in recipes in the newsletter. Future issues may offer Food Club coupons, VanHuss said.

The goal is to help shoppers make informed decisions about their health, she said.

"We're not trying to tell our shoppers what to eat. We're trying to help them make healthy food choices," VanHuss said.

The K-VA-T venture is the latest in a string of programs and services supermarkets have launched in response to America's rising obesity rates. Among them: Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., offers a series of nutrition initiatives, and Giant Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa., provided rebates to shoppers who purchased "better for you" items.

Others retailers are using shelf signs as a way to communicate health messages at the point of purchase. ShopRite, part of the Wakefern Food Corp. cooperative, Elizabeth, N.J., recently rolled out a new shelf-labeling system to make it easier for shoppers to find foods and beverages positioned as healthful.