Industry Topics

Let's Put Our Plates Together

  • FMI Launches New Campaign to Promote the Importance of Family Meals

    By Cathy Polley | Feb 21, 2013

    At this year’s Midwinter Executive Conference, we launched our newest campaign, “Let’s Put Our Plates Together.”

    The focus of the campaign is to educate food retailers nationwide on the importance of family meals.

    Why Now

    We all know that eating together as a family is important on many levels. Studies continue to show that eating together can have a positive influence on a child’s personal development.   

    Life in the United States has changed over the last few decades. The family dynamics have changed right along with it. Parents now work full time and kids have extracurricular activities leaving no time for families to prepare healthy meals and sit down together. So, why launch a campaign on this scale now?

    In his latest post on, Frank Higgins, President of Nestlé Prepared Foods, said “Retailers have a crucial role to play in getting families to the dinner table more often.”

    The role of the supermarket has also evolved over the years. They have become the center of our communities, a place of inspiration and a hub for wealth and knowledge when it comes to health & wellness. So, food retailers are the perfect advocates for family meals.

    Watch our launch video and get inspired:

    To learn more about "Let’s Put Our Plates Together," visit

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  • Food Retailers Make It Easy for Consumers to Prepare Meals at Home

    By Cathy Polley | Feb 07, 2013

    Years ago, the grocery store was just a place where you picked up your food items for the week. Over the last few decades, consumers have become busier and savvier, thanks to advancements in technology.

    Grocery stores have responded to this change, evolving into more than just a quick place to stop and instead becoming culinary centers.

    Now more than ever, food retailers answer the new needs of their customers by implementing programs that teach consumers how to prepare healthy dishes at home. According to 
    Family Speaks, a 2011 study conducted by FMI, 32% of retailers offer cooking classes in their stores, and that’s not all!

    • In-store chefs are all the rage! The demand for chefs in grocery stores continues to grow. These chefs are hired to prepare high quality meals for consumers.

    • Supermarkets do the prep work. Whether it’s marinating a pork loin or cleaning and chopping the vegetables, retailers have highly qualified cooks to perform these tasks.

    • The relationship between grocery stores and consumers goes beyond the store floor. The combination of social media, web, email and publications keep consumers informed about store offerings as well as offers, tips and quick recipes to prepare dishes at home.

    • Food retailers go mobile. Retailers like Giant and Wegmans, and many others have created apps that not only provide coupons, but allow consumers to create and manage shopping lists based on recipes they plan to prepare.

    • Finally, food retailers continue to use traditional means to educate consumers on cooking, including local media and community events.

    What are you doing in your stores to make it easy for consumers to prepare meals at home?

    Go comment!
  • How Food Retailers are Helping Shoppers Make Healthy Choices This Holiday Season

    By Cathy Polley | Nov 27, 2012
    hy-vee gluten free Retailers nationwide understand that today’s consumers are savvier when it comes to making buying decisions thanks to technology and access to more information than ever before. So, with the holidays officially here, how are food retailers helping shoppers make healthy choices?

    As food retailers continue to focus on health and wellness, many are doing their part to meet the needs of their health conscious customers by:

    • Expanding their product lines to meet the needs of shoppers with dietary restrictions
    • Serving as the “go to” resource for recipes, health advice, etc.
    • Educating their employees on nutrition and exercise
    Hy-Vee, a regional supermarket chain based in Iowa, offers a number of programs to help shoppers in their stores make healthy decisions when it comes to planning their holiday menus—everything from the appetizers to the trimmings.

    “We have a number of programs in place during the holiday season,” says Helen Eddy, Assistant Vice President of Health and Wellness and Executive Director of the Healthiest State Initiative, “We have dietitians available in stores to answer shoppers’ questions, as well as, online.”

    “Our stores also sponsor holiday shows during the season where shoppers can get new entertaining ideas and recipes.”

    These programs are not only geared to shoppers. “Our employees are our brand ambassadors … it is important that we make dietitians available to them as well as, educate them on portion control and the NuVal® Nutritional scoring system."

    What can other retailers learn from Hy-Vee?

    • Make your nutrition experts accessible during the holiday season. Extend hours for dietitians starting days before Thanksgiving and Christmas to answer any questions at your locations. Also, consider offering tips on your social media pages, emails, etc.
    • Educate shoppers and employees on healthy substitutions for dips and desserts in your offline and online materials.   For example, use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in your dips and opt for veggies and baked products instead of corn chips.
    • Address shoppers who have dietary restrictions. When it comes to this time of year, many of us fix ourselves on the traditional trimmings, using lots of flour, creams, etc. Have resources available online and host special events. Hy-Vee hosts gluten free holiday galas at its locations where they share their gluten free products.
    What are you doing in your stores to help shoppers make healthy choices this holiday season?
    Go comment!
  • Retailers Make Employees’ Health and Wellness a Priority

    By Cathy Polley | Nov 27, 2012

    Grocery retailers across the country are investing millions of dollars into their health & wellness (H&W) programs.

    This past spring, United Supermarkets, a regional grocery chain based out of Texas, invested $1M to expand its H&W program. As part of the expansion, the company is implementing internal programs to keep its employees healthy. These include preventative screenings and new results-based team member wellness programs for employees.

    Giant Eagle, a regional grocery chain based out of Pittsburgh, is another great example of how supermarkets are integrating H&W into their brand and corporate culture. The company’s H&W program includes free consultations with dietitians, preventative care clinics, health and fitness challenges, as well as other incentives like discounts at local gyms.

    “Employees are our first priority,” says Brett Merrill, Senior Vice President of Giant Eagle. “To make something a part of your company’s core values and brand, you have to practice what you preach, and that’s what we are doing.”

    The measures that retailers are taking will have a significant impact not only on the health of their individual employees but on the local stores and company overall. Healthy employees equal productive ones.

    So what other things can retailers do to encourage employees to take care of their health?
    • Educate employees on healthy living. There are many online programs available to educate employees on healthy living and eating. Also consider sponsoring in-house programs on topics such as skin care, cooking demonstrations, etc.
    • Include H&W information in employee communications. If you haven’t done so yet, look at ways to keep employees up to date on seasonal vaccinations, provide tips and information on staying fit and healthy.
    • Offer flexible work schedules to employees who want to take an hour off to go to the gym. Many people find it hard to take a one hour break during the work day to work out, but taking that time can have a positive impact on a person’s productivity.
    • Build momentum around staying fit! Sponsor physical fitness challenges throughout the year. This is a great way to encourage team building and having fun at the same time!

    What are you doing to bring health and wellness into your company’s corporate culture?

    Go comment!
  • American Families Dining at Home Does More Than Keep Money in Their Wallets

    By Cathy Polley | Nov 27, 2012

    An article recently published in the Huffington Post Eating Out Less shows that more and more Americans are choosing to dine at home rather than out.

    According to the article, two out of five Americans are dining out less than earlier this year. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that many Americans are looking for ways to save money, choosing to stay in more and going out less for dinner.

    So, how are food retailers helping families respond to this trend? According to a study released by FMI and Booz & Company, supermarkets are offering more value through a variety of ways:

    • Loyalty card discounts and value-oriented private label products
    • Notifying consumers about relevant coupons
    • Providing time- and money-saving grocery buying tips
    • Lower prices on staple items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, peanut better, etc.

    The efforts that food retailers are not only helping Americans keep money in their wallets, but are bringing families together around the dinner table. Eating together can also have a positive impact on children’s development. Here’s how:

    According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse The Importance of Family Dinners VI (CASA) at Columbia University, kids who have dinner with their families:

    • Are less likely to consume alcohol and/or do drugs
    • Will less likely be obese, choosing healthier options
    • And, perform better in school

    As more and more Americans become more frugal about spending, stores have an opportunity to not only provide value when it comes saving, but can help families plan their meal schedules.

    Whether it’s picking up a rotisserie chicken and salad from the market or gathering ingredients for a Sunday meal, consumers are always looking for tips and advice when it comes to preparing meals for their families.

    What are you doing at your stores to help consumers with their day-to-day meals?

    Go comment!
  • The In's and Out's of Health Shopping

    By Cary Silvers | Oct 02, 2012
     Cary Silvers
     Director of Consumer Insights at Rodale

    The ability to separate real health trends from fads can lead the way to a profitable balance sheet. Shoppers have been exposed to a glut of information about healthy eating for many years. Unfortunately, this taxes the shoppers’ ability to make the right choices – the majority of the time. The old saying “an inch deep, but a mile wide” is a good descriptor of most shoppers’ knowledge about healthy eating.

    The Prevention/FMI Shopping for Health study can help you cut across the threshold of recognizing trend from fad. Regarding the current gluten-free phenomenon, does the explosion of gluten-free products show companies have read the marketplace correctly or could this be another textbook case of over-expansion?

    The SFH study reports that only seven percent (7%) of shoppers say gluten free is a concern to them, with practically no increase from our first measurement in 2010. While there has been a lot of press and arguable health benefits to avoiding wheat in your diet, the U.S. Department of Health and Humane Services reports approximately 2 million people in the United States have Celiac disease, or about 1 in 133 people. So the question to ask is why would someone without Celiac disease continue to purchase gluten-free products?

    What is happening is shoppers’ are paying more attention to what is in their food rather than what is not in it. One-in-three shoppers (32%) say they are buying more foods based on their nutritional components vs. last year.

    Some of the leaders in the “nutritional foods” segment are the protein content (in food) where thirty-three percent (33%) say this is important to them up 10 points since 2009. Whole grains have made tremendous inroads with shoppers, however, more have switched to eating whole grain bread fifty-five percent (55%) than they have with pasta twenty-six percent (26%) or rice twenty-five percent (25%). The real story for rice and pasta shows shoppers are switching between white and whole grain from time to time. More recently we have been tracking the Greek yogurt explosion – thirty percent (30%) say they purchase up 9 points from last year, no fad here.

    One of the most important things we have learned doing the study is how selective shopper’s are when purchasing “healthier” foods. Taste is the lead factor, followed by nutritional benefit. Most shoppers employ what every President wishes they had when approving new legislation – a line item veto. The way this works is evident in our switch to whole grain foods, the majority have voted yes with bread, but not with rice and pasta.

    Understanding what your customers are switching to vs. what they might try and wave goodbye to …is the way to increase your stores relevance to your shoppers. Anecdotally, almost everyone I speak to who has switched to Greek yogurt describes how they doctor it to their individual taste by adding items like fresh fruit to granola and raisins. Since Greek yogurt is a fast growing food your shopper’s are buying, stores could set up yogurt sample stations offering different fruit, nut, and granola toppings so they can mix and match to taste. This way their basket size increases with Greek yogurt plus the other toppings they just tried.

    Go comment!
  • Health Conscious Customers Seek Advice and Education from Retailers

    By Cathy Polley | Sep 26, 2012

    Cathy Polley, Vice President of Health and Wellness and Executive Director of the FMI Foundation, Talks to Brett Merrell and Steve Roden, FMI Health & Wellness Council’s Co-Chairs, on meeting the needs of today’s nutrition savvy customers

    What drives consumer decision-making when it comes to food?  The answer is nutrition. Last month, we released our 2012 Shopping for Health” study. According to the survey, 32 percent of shoppers reported that they are buying more foods based on nutritional components compared to one year ago.

    This can be attributed to:

    • Shoppers today are more savvy than ever
    • They have access to more information at their finger tips
    • More and more Americans are taking preventive measures to stay healthy

    So, how are supermarkets meeting today’s consumer needs?  

    With an understanding that consumers are much more sophisticated now thanks to technology and access to more information than ever before, today’s grocery stores need to provide more than just products.

    “We are living in age of wellness, and it’s not a short term trend,” says Brett Merrell, Senior Vice President of Health and Wellness for Giant Eagle, “Wellness is now fully integrated into the American culture; it’s a part of our lives.”

    Giant Eagle, a regional grocery store chain based out of Pittsburgh, is making health and wellness an integral part of its overall brand and corporate culture.

    “We are making health and wellness a part of the shopping experience,” says Merrell, “We have experts available to answer questions on the floor—everyone from dietitians to beauty experts. Our pharmacists are also trained to provide counseling.”

    The grocery chain also hosts store events, participates in community activities and has a strong online presence through its website, social media and e-communications.  Furthermore, Giant Eagle offers health and wellness programs to their employees.

    “Savvy consumers seek recommendations, ask more questions or just need some advice from someone they trust,” says Steve Roden, President and CEO of Learn Something, the leading provider of custom eLearning solutions and consumer education for the food, drug and healthcare industries.

    “Supermarkets are responding by educating employees to be more knowledgeable on everything from food safety and food prep to the specific products.” 

    It doesn’t stop there. Supermarkets are changing their dynamic, moving away from its traditional model that many of us have become familiar with over the years.

    So, what can other food retailers do to meet consumer needs? Here are a few ideas to consider:

    • Prepare your team to ask the right questions.  Roden said it well during our interview, “Start by educating your employees to ask the right questions.” Remember, your customers are turning to you to help them make the right decisions when it comes to their food making decisions.
    • Make your experts accessible on the floor, on social media or at an event.  Thanks to social media, you do not need to limit your experts to events or on site. Use the power of social media to allow consumers to connect with wellness experts and chefs on your website or through your email newsletter.  Use the tools available to you to spread your wealth of knowledge.    
    • Be a resource. Everyone always has one place they go to for recipes, tips or just ideas. Become the go to resource!

    How are you meeting your customers’ health and wellness needs?

    Go comment!
  • Tips on How to Get Families to Eat Together More

    Sep 21, 2012
    Did you know that September 24, 2012 was Family Day?  Sponsored by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), Family Day is a national campaign to educate parents how communication fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free.

    Research conducted by the Center indicated that families who dine together more frequently can have a positive impact on their kids’ development and academic performance. Research also shows that teens that don’t have dinner with their families often are:

    • 4X more likely to use tobacco
    • And 3X more likely to use alcohol
     Whether stopping to pick up dinner for the evening or doing their weekly grocery shopping, Americans visit grocery stores more than once a week. Stores continue to be the center of many communities. So how can grocery stores encourage families to eat together more frequently?

    • Show that preparing a family meal isn’t a one person job! Host kid friendly cooking demos in your locations; share easy to do recipes and tips for cooking together. Research shows that kids who cook with their parents learn about nutrition because they are introduced to a variety of foods. In addition, they develop better math and reading skills.
    • Help shoppers make decisions easier and quicker. Offer special deals on select family package products and ready to go foods.
    •  Partner with local nutritionists to be available on the floor to answer questions or provide counseling on making the best nutritional choices for families.
    • Share ideas for great family dinners on your website and social media. Consumers are always looking for suggestions. Consider sharing family meal suggestions on your website and through social media.
    • Engage your shoppers on your social media outlets.  Invite them to share their family meal photos and stories on your Facebook page, YouTube or Google+.
    What are you doing to encourage families to dine together? Share your ideas.
    Go comment!