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Promoting Health and Profits with Produce

Healthful, profitable, flavorful and good-looking, too — what’s not to love about produce?

First, consider sales. In 2013, total retail sales of fresh produce reached $87.6 billion, with $53.8 billion of those sales coming from supermarkets, according to Progressive Grocer’s 67th Annual Consumer Expenditures Study. The produce category is growing steadily, with total sales up 4.4 percent in 2013, 3.5 percent in 2012 and 2.6 percent in 2011.

Then there’s terrific nutrition. Produce supplies fiber and many vitamins and minerals that people tend to fall short on. And science backs its health-promoting potential:

Studies show that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with healthier body weights and lower risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

In theory, consumers are on board with produce. Eight in 10 consumers (83 percent) say they’re making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables, according to the 2014 Food & Health Survey from the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation. But government consumption surveys tell a different story: Nearly 80 percent of Americans don’t eat recommended daily amounts of fruit, and nearly 90 percent don’t eat recommended daily amounts of vegetables.

Clearly, the time is ripe to promote good health and drive sales in the produce department.

Tapping RDs

Retailers nationwide are offering an abundance of creative produce-promoting programs. Two recent examples of many are Wegmans Food Markets’ Love Your Veggies weekend — jam-packed with veggie-centric cooking demos, tastings, games and giveaways — and the United Family’s launch of the Kids Free Fruit Program, which enables children to enjoy a gratis apple, orange or banana while their parents shop.

Retail dietitians are key partners on the produce promotions team. They’re not just smart about sales and strong advocates for shoppers’ health, they’re also experts at using science-based information and educational methods to develop engaging health and nutrition programs, as well as messaging and signage that are aligned with government nutrition-labeling regulations. Further, they’re adept at targeting programs to shopper demographics and interests such as local, organic, non-GMO and convenience items, along with vegetarian, gluten-free and diabetes-friendly diets.

What else? Dietitians can facilitate produce-themed partnerships with local hospitals, health agencies and schools; spearhead social media campaigns; make traditional media appearances; plan seasonal sampling programs; and develop produce department tours for kids and adults.

Dietitians also can advise on grab-and-go produce options to display at the front end; create nutrition messaging for featured sale items; write blogs and handouts that dispel produce myths (for example, it’s too costly or time-consuming to prepare); and develop easy recipes and meal ideas that star fruits and vegetables. In other words, the possibilities are almost limitless.

So make retail dietitians your go-to resource to help close America’s produce consumption gap. It’s a win-win for your bottom line and the health of your shoppers.

The time is ripe to promote good health and drive sales in the produce department.

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