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Class Acts


Last September, Linda Arceo took one of her sons to a free kids’ nutrition education session conducted by Samantha O’Toole, the dietitian at ShopRite of Sewell, in Sewell, N.J., the family’s local supermarket. The in-store event, which dealt with whole grains, “began with a general education session, and continued with visual learning activities, coloring sheets and a hands-on, healthy snack-making activity with the kids,” Arceo recounted in a post that appeared on the website for Potluck, ShopRite’s community of bloggers.

After the session, Arceo asked O’Toole for some back-to-school nutrition information and received the dietitian’s Top 10 Healthy Back-to-School Food Tips, which included serving kids breakfast for a healthy start to the day, getting them involved in food selection and menu planning, and diluting sugary juices with water.

Personal Touch

Such direct involvement is par for the course for dietitians at ShopRite, whose stores are operated by members of the Keasbey, N.J.-based retail cooperative Wakefern Food Corp., but the impetus for such initiatives starts at the top.

“From a corporate wellness perspective, we deliver the back-to-school message through global vehicles, such as print advertisement in our circular,” notes Natalie Menza, MS, RD, Wakefern’s manager of health and wellness, who took part in a presentation on the co-op’s health-and-wellness programs at FMI Connect in June. “These provide families with ideas for healthy, quick, on-the-go breakfast and lunch options, as, well as, after-school snacking and easy weeknight meal ideas. We also promote these messages through our digital platforms like and ShopRite from Home.”

At store level, such efforts take on a unique character. “Our in-store dietitians personalize these recommendations and health messages as a foundation to create back-to-school programs for their stores, and will include specific product and/or meal recommendations that will resonate with their individual store’s customer base,” continues Menza. “We all know there is no one-size-fits-all model for health; therefore, we work to ensure that we meet consumers where they’re at when it comes to their cultural or economic status.”

Asked how ShopRite dietitians are tailoring their back-to-school projects in accordance with customer feedback, Menza responds that any solutions offered must “be, easy — we are all time-starved — and their families have to accept [them], which means [they have] to be healthy and delicious. Our dietitians work with customers one-on-one to ensure they have a plan when it comes to back-to-school nutrition.” (For more on how retail dietitians are influencing center store back-to-school merchandising and promotions, see the All’s Wellness column on page 20.)

Eating for ‘Peace’

One brand many dietitians would be happy to endorse as part of a school lunch or as an afternoon snack is Coral Gables, Fla.-based Buddy Fruits, which offers squeezable pouches containing small batches of hand-selected UDSA Grade A fruits — and in some varieties, vegetables — and no artificial ingredients.

“For back-to-school we decided to develop a concept that stems directly from our core — parents should not have to sacrifice quality for convenience,” asserts Buddy Fruits Senior Brand Manager Juan Mesa. “Our ‘Pack Their Lunch with Peace of Mind’ campaign will be available in major retailers in the U.S. and Canada beginning in mid-July [and running] through September.”

The program’s back-to-school dump bins and floor displays will enable the shelf-stable line to be merchandised in the produce section, while “pallet corners will … bring this campaign to life at our warehouse club customers,” notes Mesa. The company plans to supplement its POS materials with an IRC and a promotional sweepstakes. “Consumers will be able to enter online for a chance to win a year’s supply of Buddy Fruits for their entire classroom,” notes Mesa of the sweepstakes, which will live in-store as well as on the brand’s digital platforms.

In tandem with its back-to-school efforts, the company will begin to roll out the first new flavor in its Originals line since 2008: Blueberry.

Sprouting Up

Similarly concerned with providing superior nutrition for growing — and learning — bodies is Minneapolis-based Live Better Brands LLC, maker of non-GMO Way Better Snacks.

“We know that back-to-school is a very busy time for families, and parents are looking for healthy, convenient foods that can be consumed on the go,” says Emily Harris-Greene, VP of marketing. “Way Better Snacks is a natural fit for this consumer and occasion, given our portfolio of addictively delicious snacks that are convenient and better-for-you, made with premium sprouted seeds, beans and whole grains.”

To that end, according to Harris-Greene, “Our primary goal is to make it easy for consumers to find our products during back-to-school shopping.”

Way Better attains this goal, she continues, “by offering the consumers a great value and by participating in retailers’ better-for-you-themed back-to-school displays that offer a wide variety of products to address the needs of consumers during this season. And, of course, we have a keen focus on our consumers that are in-store by educating and sampling them through demo and display programs. This combination of tactics has proved to be very impactful for our fast-growing brand.”

For this back-to-school season in particular, “Way Better Snacks is rolling out display-ready merchandising units to make it turnkey for retailers and easy for shoppers to find our products in store,” notes Harris-Greene. “We will coordinate the timing of these displays around ads, coupons and demos to build awareness with consumers and incent trial. We will also offer great deals for consumers who want to stock up on snacks in order to minimize the frequency of their shopping trips during this busy time. Finally, we are launching a multipack with three different flavors of single-serve packages [that] are perfect for delicious snacking on the go, for parents and kids alike.”

Additionally, the snack line is “pursuing cross-promotions across other brands and categories to deliver holistic solutions to the consumer,” she asserts. “By offering great values on a combination of products such as produce, snack bags and beverages, we can offer consumers convenient and healthy lunch solutions they can feel good about providing to their children.”

Way Better’s recently introduced products include four flavors of sprouted barley crackers — Rosemarry Me & Olive Oil, Mustard & Cheddar Way Better, Beyond the Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, and Back in Black Bean & Salsa — which, Harris-Greene, points out “can be eaten on the go or after school, paired with healthy dips, cheese or veggies. … Way Better Snacks crackers are made with sprouted barley and other ancient grains such as spelt and farro. Sprouting these awesome whole grains naturally unlocks all the nutrients inside, so your body can use them.”

Further, just in time for the start of autumn classes, the brand is rolling out a limited-edition seasonal flavor of its sprouted tortilla chips, Oh Snap! Ginger Snap, which Harris-Greene says “will remind you of the aroma of holiday baking coming from your oven.” The item will be on shelves from September through December, while supplies last.

In response to a question about what’s to come in the realm of healthy back-to-school fare, she answers: “I believe we’ll continue to see more gluten-free products and other products formulated to avoid food allergies. … Non-GMO products will continue to be important, as will snacks that are low in sugar or made without high-fructose corn syrup. Products that taste great and that you feel good about eating will always be on trend.”

“Our in-store dietitians personalize recommendations and health messages as a foundation to create back-to-school programs for their stores, and will include specific product and/or meal recommendations that will resonate with their individual store’s customer base.”
—Natalie Menza, Wakefern Food Corp.

“Our primary goal is to make it easy for consumers to find our products during back-to-school shopping.”
—Emily Harris-Greene, Way Better Snacks

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