PRATT FOODS TIES OPRAH'S TRAINER IN TO FITNESS FAIR

OKLAHOMA CITY -- J.B. Pratt Foods here tied in better-for-you frozen entrees, snacks, salad dressings and other Center Store products with an in-store visit from Bob Greene, Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer.The retailer's South Walker Street store, which is one of four Pratts Wellmarket units that stock natural and organic products, hosted a seminar by Greene late last month as part of a Fitness Fair.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- J.B. Pratt Foods here tied in better-for-you frozen entrees, snacks, salad dressings and other Center Store products with an in-store visit from Bob Greene, Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer.

The retailer's South Walker Street store, which is one of four Pratts Wellmarket units that stock natural and organic products, hosted a seminar by Greene late last month as part of a Fitness Fair. About 150 people attended.

"Greene is an exercise physiologist," said J.B. Pratt, the chain's owner and chief executive officer. "But he talks about the food pyramid. His whole approach is making practical, realistic recommendations to people about how they can improve their physical condition."

The retailer advertised Greene's appearance in its circular, along with special promotions on products such as Healthy Choice frozen meals, two 12-ounce packages for $4; Green Giant Create a Meal, 21-ounce package for $2.39; SnackWell's Caramel Nut Cluster or Raisin Dips, 5-ounce bags for $1.29; and Kraft fat-free salad dressings, two 16-ounce bottles for $4.

Pratts also used the circular to promote natural and organic foods and supplements in Wellmarket sections of the store. Center Store products included Arrowhead Mills soups, 15-ounce can for $1.59; Mi-Del Ginger Snap Cookies, 10-ounce bag for $2.29; and Natural Touch Nine Bean Loaf, 16-ounce loaf for $3.29.

Also in the circular was an advertisement encouraging consumers to pick up brochures available at the store for the Healthy Start Program, a national nutritional plan for children. In addition, Pratts Wellmarket was promoted as stocking a variety of organic options for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.

Pratts has hosted other wellness programs. For example, Howard Hagglund, a local naturopathic physician with a radio show, intermittently broadcasts his Saturday segment from the retailer's 39th Street unit, also here, and answers questions from the live audience gathered at the supermarket.

Pratt, who holds an M.D., became a serious health advocate about eight years ago and has been using his supermarkets as a platform for public education.

For example, last year The Oklahoman, the area's major metropolitan newspaper, sponsored its first Health & Fitness Expo in November, and the chain became one of the exhibitors.

Pratts set up a minigrocery store and had its corporate nutritionist, Kay Stanfill, on hand to do cooking demonstrations, and its registered pharmacist, Bob Teas, to educate people about herbal remedies. Pratts also invited a local area physician, Dale Peterson, to talk about food and "The Health Maintenance Pyramid."

"We had an exceptional response and were able to expose people to some of the brochures we have here [in the store]," said Pratt, referring to the number of pamphlets and brochures on health, wellness, diet and nutrition that are available in the bulk food sections of Pratts Wellmarket stores.

Earlier in the year, Pratts sponsored its own consumer food show, held, like the Expo, at the fairgrounds in central Oklahoma City. The chain used the event to conduct samplings and to distribute coupons.

"We are not saying you have to shop in one of these [Wellmarket] stores that carry natural and organic foods to be healthy," said Pratt. "We think it's possible to be healthy in any supermarket across the country, as long as it has a produce department."

Pratt explained that although his demographics are not ideal for promoting natural and organic foods, since the per capita income in Oklahoma is 80% of U.S. figures, and the average education level is a little lower, he has still been able to develop interest in selected stores. He's accomplished this through employee and consumer education and with careful attention to merchandising.

Pratts has also created links with local health maintenance organizations, hospitals and universities.

For example, Pratts' dietitian is an adjunct lecturer in both the nutrition and nursing departments of the University of Oklahoma. She helped write a health and wellness curriculum that is used in adult education programs sponsored by the area's land-grant community college system. Many of these classes are given in supermarkets.

Stanfill also conducts store tours for adults and children at Pratts. Last year she did six tours for HMO groups and about 40 school tours.