Grocers Launch National Family Meals Month Programs
As September ushers in the fifth annual National Family Meals Month, supermarket retailers across the country have been stepping up to the plate – literally – with programs designed to lure more households to the dinner table for shared repasts. This year, retail participants are kicking it up a notch in an effort to engage families.
For instance, Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets, which operates 198 stores in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and West Virginia, is holding free in-store dietitian-led classes and workshops for adults and kids throughout the month, with a focus on meal planning, simple cooking hacks for fast family meals, and budget-friendly shopping and will put out special editions of its HealthyBites Magazine and HealthyBites podcast.
The September/October magazine issue highlights the dietitian team’s top five recommended pantry staples for easy meal assembly, provides meal-planning tips and discusses the benefits of eating as a family more regularly, as well as including five-ingredient recipes that can be prepared in 35 minutes or under. The second of the podcast series, hosted by Weis Markets Lifestyle Initiatives Manager Beth Stark and retail dietitian Kathryn Long, will feature meal-planning and kitchen hacks. Additionally, the Weis Markets Lifestyle team will hold a Facebook Live event in partnership with the Pennsylvania Beef Council on Sept. 12 and share weekly recipe solutions on its Facebook page.
Also in the Northeast, ShopRite, operated by members of the Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp. retail cooperative, is running a variety of in-store classes and community events across its market area.
This year's campaign, From Our Family to Yours, spotlights the 50 individual families that own and operate 276 ShopRite stores in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania by sharing their favorite tips for finding convenient, unique and affordable meal solutions at their supermarkets.
Although events will vary by store, dietitians will offer free food demonstrations, classes and events to help customers find the best meal solutions for them. Further, the banner will support the campaign through the distribution of free recipe books, social media content, broadcast TV commercials, weekly circular promotions, digital ads, dedicated online pages and outdoor billboard ads.
Over in the Midwest, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based distributor/grocer SpartanNash and its 160 corporate-owned stores are urging shoppers to pledge to have one more meal together each week at home. To facilitate this, the company’s Family Fare, Martin’s Super Markets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket and Family Fresh Market banners are offering tips and tricks online, in stores and via social media with the hashtags #FamilyMealsMonth and #OurFamilyMeals. Shoppers can share their own family meal experiences using the latter hashtag.
The banners are also sharing weekly recipe videos featuring Our Family products as ingredients in easy-to-prepare weeknight family meals, and the Family Fare Facebook page (@shopfamilyfare) will host a live Q&A session on Sept. 17, during which participants can ask SpartanNash’s Living Well team food and nutrition questions.
At West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee, which has more than 260 stores in eight Midwestern states, National Family Meals month activities include children ages 12 and under eating free with the purchase of an adult entrée at all Hy-Vee Market Grille and Market Grille Express locations every day in September; family-friendly daily recipes with simple ingredients shared on the company’s social media platforms; weekly meal ideas highlighting grab-and-go dinner options; a digital Family Cooking Guide available on the grocer’s website; complimentary family recipe books available from in-store nutritionists, who are also available to provide consultation services on customers’ dietary needs and to conduct free store tours, family nutrition walks, and educational courses for children and adults on nutrition, lifestyle management and cooking; and a free one-hour family meal at a dining table located inside four stores, where shoppers will be able to watch the family eating together and learn more about the benefits of family mealtime. Each participating family, chosen from online entrants, will receive a $250 Hy-Vee gift card toward future family meals.
The one-hour family meal dining events will take place throughout the month of September at stores in Waukee, Iowa; Overland Park, Kan.; Brooklyn Park, Minn.; and Omaha, Neb.
Smaller grocery players are also promoting family meals. De Pere, Wis.-based Festival Foods, with 31 full-service supermarkets across the Badger State, is also providing a range of programs, insights and recipe ideas to help make mealtime easier for busy families, with a particular focus on the back-to-school occasion.
The grocer’s 2019 campaign is about families getting back to basics when it comes to eating meals at home. To that end, Festival’s Mealtime Mentors, a team of three registered dietitians-nutritionists, are sharing weekly #MealHack videos demonstrating ways to use rotisserie chicken, ideas for properly storing fruits and vegetables, and how to clean up after mealtime. What’s more the mentors are encouraging families to share their own meal hacks using the #MealHack hashtag in a bid to create a community of households interested in meal preparation, as well as offering an interactive quiz enabling participants to identify their personal meal style, the results of which they can share on Facebook or Twitter using #MyMealStyle hashtag for the chance to win a $25 Festival Foods gift card each week in September. What’s more, after taking the quiz, participants will receive personalized recipes that align with their meal style.
The Mealtime Mentors recommend that families take the quiz together and browse through the recipes that meet their family’s meal style, since “[g]etting kids involved in the meal process from start to finish elevates the mealtime experience and makes it more enjoyable for the entire family.”
Meanwhile, from the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation, which created the family meals movement back in 2015, comes a campaign starring celebrity chef, cookbook author and Food Network fixture Robert Irvine, who joins about 230 partners – food retailers, suppliers, collaborators, media and luminaries – in helping consumers eat more family meals.
As well as serving as emcee for the FMI Foundation’s lead fundraiser, Irvine will use his high profile to help publicize National Family Meals Month by sharing his recipes and endorsing for the cause in syndicated food features and social media videos.
“We are quite proud to be adding Chef Irvine as an ambassador of the social, emotional, mental and nutritional value of the family meal,” noted FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin. “This cause is an authentic one for him and a natural extension of his entire portfolio of work. We welcome the creativity and muscle mass his celebrity power brings to this movement that encourages one more meal together each week using items from the grocery store.”
The organization pointed to Nielsen data showing that mealtime behaviors are changing as a result of National Family Meals Month. According to the data, nine out of 10 consumers said they took action after seeing the campaign in September 2018. Top consumer behavior changes reported included cooking more meals at home (43%), making healthier food choices (37%), eating together as a family more often (33%), and buying more fruits and vegetables (32%).
The FMI Foundation’s National Family Meals Month movement encourages consumers to pledge to share one more family meal at home per week using items from the grocery store, with the organization providing resources online to help them do so. According studies cited by the foundation, families who eat together reap various physical, social and psychological benefits.
On Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States, Wakefern/ShopRite is No. 8, Hy-Vee is No. 12, Weis is No. 26 and SpartanNash is No. 33.