Grocers Support of the Military: A Cause Worth Saluting

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Grocers Support of the Military: A Cause Worth Saluting

03/19/2015

By Jim Dudlicek

Members of the nation’s armed forces — active-duty or veterans — historically are held in high esteem by the public. Regardless of personal political leanings, consumers tend to have great sympathy and affection for service personnel. Support for military-related causes is strong, and movies like the Oscar-nominated “American Sniper” enjoy box-office success.

That’s why community-minded grocery retailers often put military causes at the top of their outreach activities.

“With 23 million Americans who are veterans and more than 2 million active-duty and reservists, the numbers alone speak to why Kroger created Honoring Our Heroes,” Lynn Marmer, group VP for corporate affairs at The Kroger Co., says of the Cincinnati-based grocer’s partnership with the USO that has raised nearly $12 million since 2010 to help support the organization’s programs, the largest cumulative gift to the USO in its 75-year history.

“But our reasons go much deeper than the numbers alone, and are much closer to the hearts and homes of our customers and associates,” Marmer continues. “Americans of all ages and demographics are personally touched by the past and present military service of our neighbors, family members and colleagues.”

Kroger started Honoring our Heroes in 2010 as a small regional initiative for its checkout coin box collections. The response was very strong, so the grocer conducted comprehensive research that revealed customers of every demographic segment wanted to support veterans and service members. The program has continued to grow annually, with Kroger’s customers, suppliers and employees at all levels contributing to fundraising efforts.

Additionally, since 2009, Kroger has hired more than 22,000 veterans; the company operates more than 2,600 grocery stores under two dozen banners in 34 states.

“I think our nation regrets how we treated Vietnam-era veterans, and as a country we are determined to support today’s returning servicemen and -women and all our veterans with the opportunities, respect and dignity they deserve,” Marmer says. “So making a pledge to hire veterans is another way we can express our appreciation to our service members. It also is smart business, as veterans bring experience and maturity to the workplace.”

Brands for Bravery

Grocery shoppers across the country can show their support for veterans by patronizing more than 30 consumer brands and 100 grocery retail banners participating in the Wounded Warrior Project’s (WWP) Believe in Heroes Campaign, launched in 2010 by Jacksonville, Fla.-based integrated marketing consultant Acosta Sales & Marketing.

Acosta launched its fifth annual Believe in Heroes campaign last summer as part of the 10th anniversary of the WWP, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based organization offering wounded veterans and their families support through programs designed to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment.

Since its inception, Believe in Heroes has grown to become the largest co-op marketing program in the United States. Bringing together thousands of CPG brands, retailers and consumers, the campaign has raised more than $16 million for WWP to date and has helped enable the expansion of its life-saving veteran programs that now directly serve more than 50,000 injured service members.

“The grocery industry’s support of injured service members through Believe in Heroes is nothing short of remarkable,” says Robert Hill, Acosta’s CEO. “Our veterans have selflessly sacrificed to protect and serve our country, and this movement firmly demonstrates our collective commitment to giving back to our nation’s heroes when they need our help the most.”

Last September through Veterans Day, Believe in Heroes called on consumers to “Shop, Share and Save,” encouraging them not only to shop and receive discounts in support of injured veterans, but also to connect with warriors by discovering their personal stories and inviting others to join the cause. In this latest initiative, each participating brand offered a high-value digital coupon promoted in two special issues of News America Marketing’s SmartSource Magazine coupon insert delivered to 53 million households nationwide. Participating grocery retailers supported the effort through their circulars, in-store programs, point-of-purchase materials, and contribution tearpads at checkout. Brands that took part included Bic, Burt’s Bees, Campbell’s, Clorox, Gerber, Horizon Organic, Hormel and Purina.

“Thanks to Acosta, News America Marketing, and all of the brands, retailers and consumers who participate in the Believe in Heroes campaign, WWP is able to continue to grow and help even more service members who live with the visible and invisible wounds of war,” says Adam Silva, WWP’s chief development officer. “Believe in Heroes has played a significant role in our growth and in rallying communities across the United States to support WWP’s mission.”

Homefront Honors

Scores of other grocers support their own initiatives in connection with military holidays. For example, last fall, Publix Super Markets, Delhaize America’s Food Lion banner and Tops Markets LLC each offered a discount on Veterans Day to active and retired members of the U.S. military, as well as to their families.

Publix and Food Lion extended 10 percent discounts to veterans and active-duty personnel with proof of service, while Tops offered an 11 percent discount on total grocery orders.

“Publix is proud to honor the men and women who serve and protect our country and our freedom,” says Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at the Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer, which operates 1,088 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. “We support the military and their families through many programs throughout our operating areas. Publix’s Veterans Day discount is an extension of our military support and directly impacts our service families. Our promotion is a small token of appreciation for their everyday acts of bravery. It’s one way we can give back.”

“Food Lion proudly supports the men and women who are serving our country and who protect our freedoms every day,” says Greg Finchum, SVP of retail operations at the Salisbury, N.C.-based grocery chain. “Providing this discount to military and their families is a way for us to honor them and show our gratitude for the many sacrifices they have made for our country.”

Food Lion has more than 1,100 stores in 10 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, while Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops operates 161 supermarkets in western and northeastern New York, northern Pennsylvania, and western Vermont.