At Martin’s Food Markets we are grateful for the incredible learning experience and opportunity the Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL) has afforded us. In addition to partnering with manufacturers around healthier eating, we have also connected with our customers in that market in a way we had not before and learned that they are excited and grateful to gain more insight into healthier eating.
While the experience has been positive thus far, the question remains, how do we continue to move the needle in Hagerstown without the concentrated focus it has received due to CHL? As a retailer with 171 stores, three of which are in Hagerstown, we want to understand how to maintain engagement around healthy eating in a small market.
Here are some takeaways that will help to direct our focus moving forward in Hagerstown and other similar markets;
- Create excitement. Our event in January was proof that the customers in Hagerstown are excited and grateful for experiences, information, and encouragement of healthier eating. We received high fives and hugs for things as seemingly insignificant as samples of healthier products and coupons. The customers felt special because we created an experience with them in mind, offering product samples of items they would try and potentially buy like our Nature’s Promise Soup Starters made with low sodium chicken broth and Lean Cuisine Butternut Squash Ravioli as part of a balanced plate and gave them the opportunity to win prizes for participating. This event was proof that every little thing makes a difference and we will move forward with similar experiences even on a smaller scale that the stores can implement themselves.
- Collaborate with manufacturers. Merchandising collaboration with manufacturers like Pepsico is not only possible, it’s often a priority for them as well. CHL provided a space in which the conversation about merchandising in the stores and product promotion during events was solely about healthier choices. How do we replicate that outside of CHL and Hagerstown?
- Involve store associates. This experience has taught us that many of our store associates want to help. When provided the goals, objectives and tools they are willing and able to execute in-store events, support of community events, and regular interaction with customers that meets those goals. This includes leveraging the knowledge and tools our pharmacists have to have conversations with customers about topics like medication adherence, managing health conditions, and improving their health by making changes to lifestyle habits.
- Use Guiding Stars to educate. Beginning in April, Martin’s associates and customers will see Guiding Stars throughout the store on shelf tags and packages. Guiding Stars is a nutrition navigation program and the implementation comes at a perfect time for Hagerstown. Guiding Stars narrows choices and points customers and associates towards foods that have more vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, whole grains, and omega-3’s –and less saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar and sodium, and artificial colors. From there customers and associates can choose products based on their individual needs. It’s an ideal tool to guide them to better choices and we’ll continue to make educating our associates about the program a priority.
- Leverage community partners. The initiative in Hagerstown has been a good reminder of the community organizations that exist to do just what we’re trying to – improve the health and wellness of the communities in which they operate. When one of our nutritionists are not available to be in Hagerstown we will consider leveraging community organizations to provide that education.
There is still so much conversation that needs to happen, but CHL has provided a jumping off point to continue to explore how we engage customers around healthy eating in small markets where the need is high. We care about our customers and will continue to push ourselves beyond CHL in Hagerstown to create opportunities to engage them and improve the health and wellness of the communities in which we operate.
Sarah Glunz, MS, CNS, LDN
GIANT Food Stores, LLC