SAN FRANCISCO -- Ham is getting a bum rap in supermarket delis since nutrition labels were revamped, because labels don't tell the whole story, according to nutrition consultant Jeanine Sherry, president of NewWellness and nutritionist for Ukrop's Super Markets, both in Richmond, Va.
Sherry spoke about some of the confusion the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act is causing around supermarket deli and bakery cases, during a seminar at the convention of the Retail Bakers of America held here last month.
Since the NLEA went into effect last May, Ukrop's has seen ham sales go down 3%, while turkey, thanks to its obviously positive nutrition profile, has jumped in sales by 48%.
Sherry said it is not surprising that turkey is faring so well in the deli case. However, ham should not be declining, she said.
"That obviously shows me there is an opportunity for a lot of consumer education," Sherry told the audience of retailers and suppliers.
"Ham sales should not be going down. There are a lot of ham products out there that have a better nutrition profile than some turkey products. Yet the customer obviously doesn't know that."
Sherry said there is a "prime opportunity" to educate customers. "We're going to sell more ham and consumers will be thrilled that they have another opportunity to have something to eat besides turkey," she said.
To get the message out to shoppers, Sherry recommends that retailers place a stronger emphasis on training sales associates about the basics of a healthy diet. Nutrition, she said, should be part of product education.
To help shoppers as well as associates, Sherry said, Ukrop's created brochures for the deli listing, by brand name, the meats and cheeses with good nutrition profiles.
The brochures are displayed in the deli as well as in the 23-unit operator's consumer education area along with other brochures and handouts.
Sherry noted that consumers are interested in eating healthfully, but they are too busy, or too confused about what constitutes a healthy diet, to make the proper choices.
At Ukrop's, the company uses apple symbols in its take-out prepared food case to identify healthy items. That way if a shopper wants to quickly buy a healthy product, he or she doesn't have to take the time to figure out what will fill the bill, but can simply scan the case in search of the apple symbol.