FMI, GMA/FPA Debut In-store Program to Promote MyPyramid

WASHINGTON -- It’s been two years in the making, but yesterday the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association (GMA/FPA), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and MatchPoint Marketing officially unveiled "Take a Peak," an initiative by the food and beverage industry to promote the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid system in grocery store aisles.

Take a Peak, initially rolling in 17 states and 2,000 retail locations, will reach millions of consumers through point-of-purchase messages and materials, including aisle banners, informational kiosks, floor graphics, educational coupon booklets, and other displays in grocery stores nationwide. The number of retail locations is expected to grow throughout 2007.

Take a Peak is a major public/private partnership that FMI’s president and c.e.o. Tim Hammonds likened to the existing food safety initiative FightBac! "Take a Peak can make the same difference," Hammonds said yesterday at a press conference in Washington, D.C. "In fact, the two programs can be combined to teach kids about food safety and healthy eating at the same time."

Mike Johanns, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, emphasized the flexibility of the initiative, which basically lets retailers take control of how the program is run store by store and region by region. "Each retailer will decide what works best in their part of the country," he said.

Retailers and manufacturers will share the cost of implementing the materials in store, noted Cal Dooley, president and c.e.o. of the now combined trade group for food and beverage makers, GMA/FPA.

Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets, for instance, has created a coupon booklet that's broken down by the five various food groups. It contains information about each food group, as well as coupons for specific branded products that fall into the food groups. Thus, the cost to develop the promotional booklet is shared.

The industry has a "lot to gain" from Take a Peak by encouraging shoppers to eat healthier, Dooley said. "The positive approach works better than the negative approach," he added. "We need to provide information in a positive way that lets shoppers make their own decisions."

Through clear and simple in-store messaging, Take a Peak is designed to provide easy-to-follow advice that shows consumers how small, progressive changes in their purchasing habits and diets can improve their health.

"I am very pleased to see the food industry taking up the challenge to help consumers make healthier choices," said Johanns. "We've had a tremendous response to MyPyramid, and I’m confident that as awareness increases, so will the health of Americans."

At the press conference, Johanns noted that the MyPyramid Web site has received more than 2.4 billion hits since its launch in April 2005. Sixty-seven percent of visitors to the site said that the material urged them to take action.

"All our research shows that consumers are eager for healthy food choices and dietary information that will help them control the ingredients in their meals and support healthy eating at home," said Hammonds. "Take a Peak is an excellent example of a valuable collaboration that can reach millions of consumers and change behavior."

Only food and beverage products that meet specific nutritional criteria and provide a "meaningful contribution toward helping consumers meet the goals of MyPyramid" are eligible for the Take a Peak program, the officials said.

--Jenny McTaggart
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