WILMINGTON, Del. — Produce for Better Health Foundation's “Fruit & Veggies — More Matters” campaign is off to a good start, with more retailers signing on to the program and an increased level of produce sales for Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop supermarkets.
“It seems like every day we pick up another retailer,” Bryant Wynes, senior executive of retail marketing for PBH, told SN.
“Right now, we're probably at about 47 different companies, which is well over 22,000 stores.”
PBH uses an ad tracking service that keeps the organization informed as to what retailers are doing with the More Matters campaign, and Wynes said that in addition to ads in in-store circulars and signage in various departments of the store, many retailers are using their websites to get the message across.
One of the early leaders in utilizing the new program has been Ahold USA, which recently received the 2006 National Excellence Award from PBH for an outstanding commitment to increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables for better health. The award was accepted at the foundation's board of directors meeting on March 17 in San Francisco by Andrea Astrachan, consumer advisor for Ahold USA.
“The Ahold group has done a lot of stuff,” said Wynes. “They're linking to recipes, to tips, to a variety of different elements.”
Stop & Shop and Giant of Landover, Md., are promoting “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters” heavily on their websites, according to Astrachan.
“With the launch, we made it a real headline on our website and created a link that fell under my section, the consumer advisor section, so that customers could link to obtain more information on ‘Fruits & Veggies — More Matters,’ the website for PBH,” she said. The link allows site viewers to download the PBH healthy living booklet online if they want more copies, she added.
Astrachan noted, however, that Stop & Shop and Giant Foods had made quite a few changes to their overall produce efforts to get ready for the More Matters campaign. Notably, prices were lowered on many produce items in order to improve overall value just prior to the campaign's launch.
“We really started with supply chain distribution methods, and we worked to improve the quality and freshness of our vegetables,” said Astrachan.
“We added freshness checks; we improved our quality control and inspection mechanisms; and following that, we lowered prices on hundreds of produce items throughout our produce departments at both Stop & Shop and Giant Foods. We did that as just a part of an overall value improvement plan that we're executing for our customers.”
In addition to lowering prices as a part of the value improvement plan, the retailer has also added more convenience items, such as precut and prewashed fruits and vegetables, and more natural and organic options, through an expansion of its Nature's Promise private-label brand.
“Consumers have told us that they're looking for high-quality produce and that they want convenience produce items, whether it's our fresh fruit trays or precut, prewashed fruit, and they've told us they want it at a good price,” said Astrachan.
“So, an entire cross-functional team across various departments within Stop & Shop and Giant really looked to achieve all of those things. And the customers are responding, so we do feel positive that we've made good improvement. I'm happy to report that our fruit and vegetable sales have increased, [although] it's hard to determine how much is related to More Matters versus what we're doing overall in produce.”
Wynes told SN that he connects with a group of retail consumer affairs directors on the phone every couple of months to touch base on how the PBH campaign is going, and initial feedback on elements such as signage and logos has been positive, he said.
“Consumers thought that the graphic was not just eye-catching, but it seemed very positive and they liked it,” said Wynes.
“That's a good way, I think, to get retailers involved in this too, to get their input on what kinds of things they believe the customers are going to respond to.”
In addition to PBH in-store signage, graphics and other promotional materials, Stop & Shop and Giant offer customers a free in-store healthy living booklet called “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters,” which explains the conversion from 5 A Day to More Matters and encourages consumers to try new and interesting varieties of fruits and vegetables. The booklet also addresses moms with a section called “Get Kids Started Early.”
“We also talked about moving beyond 5 A Day and explained why ‘5 A Day’ was changing to ‘Fruits and Veggies — More Matters’ based on the new guidelines and the importance of getting really as many fruits and veggies as you can in your diet,” said Astrachan.
PBH is currently trying to encourage retailers to send examples of what they're doing in order to evaluate and share best practices with other participating retailers, said Bryant.