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Case Study: Shoppers seek health guidance
Is your seafood department saying all it can about seafood and health?
By Lisa Duchene
March 01, 2007
Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton, Ohio, has for several years
given its health-conscious customers lots of options when they
want more information about seafood. They can consult a poster
in the seafood department to find out the amount of protein,
calories and omega-3 fatty acids in the fresh fish. They can
ask a clerk behind the counter. Or they can consult several
articles in "DLM Market Report," Dorothy Lane's monthly mailed
newsletter, or "Fresh News," the retailer's weekly e-mail,
which both explain why fish is a good-for-you super-food.
In the last few months, the three-unit retailer has
encouraged its customers to "Eat Real Food," with in-store
signage and flyers promoting food in its natural state.
Dorothy Lane is ahead of the curve and has thought of just
about everything, according to two recent reports indicating
that health, nutrition and wellness are chief concerns among
grocery shoppers, who are looking to supermarkets for guidance
on healthful food options.
Many supermarkets are trying to help consumers eat better,
says Bill Greer, spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute in
"[Supermarkets] want to position themselves as the source of
healthful foods, and that would extend to produce as well as
seafood and organic products," he says.
Eighty-three percent of shoppers overall - and 93 percent of
shoppers 65 and older - associate fish with healthful eating,
according to FMI's report "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, 2006,"
detailing results of a January 2006 survey of 2,001 American
About two-thirds of survey respondents said their store
provides nutrition and health information and 55 percent use it
between once a week and once a month. The availability of
nutrition and health information is a very important factor in
selecting the primary grocery store for 27 percent of those
But health concerns do not trump price, as 60 percent of
shoppers always check the price of a new-to-them product, while
47 percent always check the nutrition labels.
Consumers also look to their grocery store for cooking
classes on healthful meal preparation. They look for signs
indicating foods that are healthful and can help them with
disease management. They also want to see information on diet
and weight loss and be alerted of nutrition-savvy staff
members, according to "Shopping for Health 2006: Making Healthy
Eating Even Easier," an annual survey of U.S. supermarket
shoppers conducted by FMI and Rodale, publisher of Prevention,
Men's Health and Women's Health magazines.
"We've been doing all of the above except the weight loss
part," says Jack Gridley, Dorothy Lane's director of meat and
seafood. The "Eat Real Food" promotion is simply the latest
twist, he says. For several years, Dorothy Lane has posted
signs about healthy food options, provided nutrition training
for its staff, offered nutrition-related articles in
newsletters, taught seafood preparation in its cooking school
and held seafood demos three to four times a week.
The broad effort has been successful, says Gridley, who
notices consumers are more interested than ever in
Most Americans are trying to eat more seafood and less
carbohydrates, according to the FMI/Rodale report. Among its
other key findings:
• Getting their kids to eat more seafood is the one
health-related strategy with which parents struggle the
• Among 14 weight-maintenance strategies listed, "eat more
fish and seafood" saw the biggest gain over the previous year
among supermarket shoppers who report they or their families
are trying to maintain a healthy weight.
The data adds up to opportunity, says Cary Silvers, Rodale's
director of consumer and advertising trends, since one-third of
principal shoppers, an estimated 41 million people, are ready
to eat healthier.
"Who's going to claim them? The diet guys? I think that's
where supermarkets have a tremendous opportunity because
[shoppers] go there every week."
Silvers recommends grocers adopt a "guerrilla mentality"
when it comes to highlighting health for shoppers. Most trips
to the supermarket are not weekly stock-ups, but quick trips
for specific items, says Silvers, so shoppers may not even pass
the seafood department.
"Save some retail space up front to highlight and profile
elements in the store like healthy eating," says Silvers. That
spot could feature the health aspects of seafood one week, then
healthful frozen products another, she notes.
Joyce Mallonee of Mallonee & Associates, a Lafayette,
Calif., food merchandising and branding consultant, disagrees
that the front of the store is the best place to highlight
healthful options. People are already bombarded there. Rather,
health guidance should be integrated in each department, she
Rarely is the seafood case well-signed, she says. Highlight
omega-3s and display as much nutritional information alongside
the product as possible, says Mallonee.
Giant Food Stores in th e Mid-Atlantic takes thi s
integrated approach. A magazine with health-related suggestions
is available in all stores, as are recipes, says Tracy
Pawelski, spokesman for Giant, in Carlisle, Pa. Many Giant
stores have chefs and nutrition-cooking classes and two have
Customers can meet with the nutritionist for $20. They
receive nearly as much back in coupons for healthy food, says
Yet all this interest among consumers still hasn't helped
Americans beat back the bulge. About two-thirds of American
adults are overweight and one-third is obese.
"People are much more aware that they should be eating
healthier and much smarter about doing it," says Silvers. "Will
they do it consistently enough? That's where America still
struggles. That's the gap."
Contributing Editor Lisa Duchene lives in Bellefonte,