When A&P  relaunched its seafood department as the Great Atlantic Seafood Market in January, the retailer also debuted a new slogan: “So Fresh, So Healthy and So Easy.”
“Eating seafood is a great way customers can practice healthy eating habits, so it was only natural that we include ‘So Healthy’ in our seafood slogan,” said Mike Mills, executive vice president of merchandising at the Montvale, N.J.-based retailer.
As customers continue to seek out healthier meal choices and increasingly turn to supermarkets for advice on food and diet, more retailers are linking seafood with a healthy lifestyle.
Shelf tags are one of the most common ways to draw attention to the benefits of fish.
“Our Wellness Factor Tag system is an easy way for consumers to identify seafood items that are rich in omega-3s and lean protein. You can find our Wellness Factor icons in our weekly ad and at shelf,” said Mills.
“In addition, if a seafood item has been certified and meets the criteria for a ‘heart-healthy food’ by the American Heart Association, we will use the AHA seal to identify it as such.”
Read more: Consumers Want Sustainable Seafood 
Similarly, Marsh Supermarkets , Indianapolis, uses its Guiding Stars icons to point out good-for-you foods. Ratings range from one to three stars, with three stars indicating the healthiest items.
“With the Guiding Stars, not only do we have the shelf tag system, but in our printed weekly ad as well as our online ad, we utilize Guiding Stars again just to point to the fact that typically most of the seafood will either have a two- or a three-star [rating],” said Mary Snell, director of nutrition and wellness.
While Fareway Stores , Boone, Iowa, doesn’t always have shelf tags for seafood, corporate dietitian Whitney Packebush sometimes calls out particular fish as part of the chain’s CentsAble Health program on affordable food that’s good for you, too.
“But if I do feature any seafood in the CentsAble Health magazine then that fish gets a shelf talker or a tag in the meat case that says ‘Featured in CentsAble Health Magazine,’” said Packebush.
Salmon now has a shelf tag since the current issue of the magazine, available for free in stores, features the fish.
Fareway recently produced CentsAble Health online videos promoting seafood. The videos link back to the wellness program’s website with recipes and are promoted across social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, Packebush said.
Kings Food Markets , Parsippany, N.J., also uses recipes and online videos as a way to showcase the healthfulness of fish. Customers can scan QR codes in the seafood department or in weekly ads to find the recipes.
“We promote in ad with the use of QR codes and descriptions that help our consumer understand the benefits of eating fresh seafood,” said Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce, floral and seafood.
Read more: One-Third of U.S. Seafood Is Mislabeled 
At the same time, Kneeland pointed out that Kings’ seafood associates are the best advocates for eating fish.
“They go the extra step to find out what health benefits are on each of our species and tie that knowledge into the most current trends whether it be a branzini or salmon or a seasonal local fish,” he said.
Encouraging Fish Purchases
Retailers who spoke to SN noted that some customers need an extra push to purchase fish because they don’t eat seafood regularly and are unsure how to prepare it.
Marsh tries to induce customers to buy fish with coupons sent through a direct-mail program run by shopper analytics firm Spire.
“So we’ll use Spire as a vehicle to ship out coupons encouraging individuals again to probably try salmon or tilapia. Just because sometimes, if you have 50 cents off or $1 off it’s a little more of an encouragement to try something,” said Snell.
The retailer also runs commercials featuring Snell that promote healthy eating during Pacers basketball games broadcast on Fox Sports. The ad about seafood explains different preparation techniques because customers “just sometimes don’t know how to incorporate [seafood]” into their diets, said Snell.
She added the commercial outlines the different options for fish, including fresh, frozen, canned and smoked.
For Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets’ environmentally conscious customers, the seafood department draws a connection between healthy eating and a healthy planet with an in-store brochure, also available on the retailer’s website.
“It provides information about seafood as a source of omega-3s and vitamin D and also about contaminants in seafood that are of concern to our customers, such as PCBs and mercury,” said Eli Penberthy, sustainable seafood expert.
Penberthy said PCC customers tend to know about the health benefits of fish and seek information on how sustainable it is.
While health is often a consideration for customers who purchase seafood, the taste and quality of the fish are equally, if not more, important, retailers agreed.
“Health is a big factor with Kings’ consumers. They like to eat light and reap the benefits of eating healthy. In the end, the flavor and freshness will keep them coming back along with seafood specialists in store that they can trust,” said Kneeland.
A&P also sees this in its stores, Mills said. “Health is an important factor because more and more customers are becoming aware of the health benefits associated with eating a diet rich in omega-3s and lean protein. However, taste is one of the biggest factors influencing a purchase.”
Since the introduction of the Great Atlantic Seafood Market, department sales have gone up.
“We have seen a significant increase in sales for everyday items, such as fresh North Atlantic salmon and fresh tilapia. We’ve also seen an increase in catfish and cod sales,” said Mills.
Promoting the health benefits of fish could possibly boost seafood sales, said Chuck Anderson, former retailer and current director of retail sales at Pier Fish.
“But the real reason to do it is just help folks have a better, healthier diet. And whether you’re promoting more vegetables and fruits in the diet or more fish and seafood, it’s just … good nutrition advice for consumers.”
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