Not only was this the first official whole grains sampling day, it also marked the first time supermarkets participated to such a large extent in the Whole Grains Council’s promotions.
Until recently, the council had concentrated on the foodservice arena to help promote whole grain products, especially during Whole Grains Month in September. But this year, council officials reached out to supermarkets and their suppliers to encourage them to participate in sampling day, and “the response we got was great,” said Cynthia Harriman, the Whole Grains Council’s director of food and nutrition strategies. Retailers that SN spoke with were enthusiastic.
Some, who for scheduling reasons couldn’t sample on April 4, just moved the day to another last week.
“We were happy to have the opportunity to participate,” Jacqueline Gomes, A&P’s corporate registered dietitian, told SN. “We think these [types of events] are important to our customers and we want to be their health and wellness destination.”
A&P, which launched its own “Wellness Factor Tag” system earlier this year to designate items with particular health attributes, sampled dill and olive oil flavored Triscuits in at least 65 of its stores last week. Associates also directed customers to other whole grain products carrying the Wellness Factor Tag.
Others, like Mariano’s Fresh Market, Arlington Heights, Ill., put emphasis on showing customers how to cook whole grains.
Skogen’s Festival Foods, Onalaska, Wis., brought out a couple of its new deli-made salads to sample.
“With Whole Grains Sampling Day on April 4, we thought this would be a fantastic time to sample some of our new Eat Well salads that feature whole grains,” Stephanie Walker, registered dietitian and health and wellness director for Skogen’s Festival Foods, said in an earlier interview.
“On April 4, we will focus on the two Eat Well salads that feature quinoa, which is a ‘new’ grain to many of our customers.”
As part of its just-recently launched Eat Well at Festival Foods program, the deli has developed 10 new salads that meet certain nutrient criteria, thus meeting the Eat Well program’s requirements. Walker was enthusiastic to introduce quinoa.
“An in-store demo provides the opportunity to engage our guests, share with them how to prepare and use quinoa, and allow them to taste and feel the grain.”
Mariano’s Fresh Market, a Roundy’s banner, started early, having whole grain sampling events on weekends during the latter part of March. There, the five-unit chain took a different tack — teaching customers how to cook whole grains, fancying them up to make enticing entrees and sides.
“Some of the recipes we used were my own,” said Peggy Balboa, registered dietitian for Mariano’s.
“Among others, we’ve sampled quinoa kale pilaf, a recipe from Food52. Fabulous! spelt pilaf from a Bob’s Red Mill recipe, and whole wheat Moroccan couscous from my own recipe collection.”
Balboa pushes the use of fresh vegetables, too.
“We promote the convenience aspect of fresh cut vegetables from produce and the salad bar. From there, whole grains are the easy part.”
Meanwhile, at a Davenport, Iowa, Hy-Vee store, registered dietitian Kristen Decker sampled Uncle Sam’s original, a cereal that’s made up of rolled wheat and flax seeds.
“It was great that the council connected us up with resources. It’s so important to be educating the public more widely about whole grains,” Decker said.
Consumers are getting more attuned to more whole grains, Harriman at the Whole Grains Council said.
“Research shows whole grain breads have risen 70% in sales since 2005,” Harriman said. That was the year of the government’s new food guidelines and the send-off of the council’s whole grain stamp.