Since 2004 the Scottish Grocers Federation Healthy Living Programme has been working with local retailers to boost sales of fruit and vegetables and other healthy products in the country’s c-stores. What’s the latest from the programme? And, on wider questions of healthier food products, how are suppliers responding to consumer health concerns?
THE recent Budget just might have changed the debate over healthy food and drink very substantially indeed. The announced sugar tax is designed to affect only soft drinks in the first instance. But who knows if it will be extended to other products?
Manufacturers and retail organisations have said for some time that they have been on the case and have been giving shoppers and consumers healthy options. In Scotland one of the definite success stories of proactive in-store healthy food and drink promotion has undoubtedly been the Scottish Grocers Federation Healthy Living Programme.
What began in 2004 as a scheme to boost availability and sales of (in the main) fresh fruit and vegetables in c-stores, especially those in areas where fresh produce consumption was low, is now a major programme covering more than 1600 outlets.
And, as programme director Ross Kerr explained, it now plays a significant role in the Scottish Government’s wider Eat Better Feel Better food health campaign and is taking the message of stocking and promoting healthier products into many more categories, including chilled food, bread, cereals and soft drinks.
The last year in particular has seen the SGF HLP begin to utilise classic promotional techniques but on products that don’t always get that sort of treatment. And it has been turning its thoughts to experimenting and piloting types of marketing activity that it then wants individual and group retailers to emulate and develop further.
“We’ve been trying to demonstrate to retailers that you can use fruit and vegetables and other healthier products the way that you promote in other categories,” he said.
“We have done some trials where if you buy five pieces of fruit you get the sixth piece free.
“We’ve been supplying some scrunchy bags, the type of bag that rolls up into a a much smaller pack. If a customer buys so many multipacks of fruit or veg they get one of the bags for free. They feature the Eat Better Feel Better logo and can be easily carried in a pocket or handbag. Customers then use them again when they visit the shop.
“The feedbag has been good,” Ross Kerr said. “Where they have been given out they are often being reused consistently.”
Recipe cards giving recipes for healthy dishes are held in a stand that is attached to the fixture that holds the products concerned. They’ve done well, he said, and the Programme is likely to produce more. And another scheme that is likely to be continued is the Programme’s Meal Deal bags where a bag containing a recipe for a healthy meal and the healthy products that the customer will use to actually make the meal are put together in a single package.
One significant activity has been the development of a new till point counter top sales unit for fruit and veg.
“I think we’ve found that some retailers have been decluttering their till points recently but several have been keen to use the unit and see it as a good place to promote fruit and veg.”
But the programme also wants to extend the healthy living message to other fixtures and categories.
Using the Healthier Scotland SGF HLP guidance on the products that can be viewed and promoted as healthier, retailers are being encouraged to use POS materials to highlight healthier lines in breakfast cereals, breads, soft drinks and other categories.
Actually grouping healthier lines together and encouraging consumers to recognise the healthy sections in each category is likely to boost sales of the healthier lines and give health-conscious shoppers reasons to come back to the shop, Ross Kerr argues.
He’d like stores to try setting up a special healthier products section – in much the same way as they currently have a promotional gondola end or a big-night-in fixture – where a customer could shop for healthy options for an entire basket of goods in one easy exercise.
The work will go on and that will include adding more retailers to the programme and ensuring as many as possible achieve and maintain its gold standard.
But another main aim, he says, is to get retailers, wholesalers and suppliers talking together and working together to promote healthier lines by using promotional and retailing skills all across their distribution systems and stores.