United Supermarkets Rolling Out New Labeling System

LUBBOCK, Texas -- United Supermarkets is installing a new labeling system for food products at its Market Street store here that flags items according to specific health-related attributes.

The new system was introduced in conjunction with a three-day Living Well Expo held Friday through Sunday at the store. United will eventually implement the labeling program and hold expos in all of its stores, according to director of marketing Eddie Owens.

The labeling program, which Owens said would be employed throughout each department, consists of color-coded shelf talkers placed just beneath the pertinent items. Red denotes heart-healthy products, mauve stands for low-sugar items, green means organic, and blue signifies gluten-free. The items in each category are chosen carefully, said Owens: For instance, to be designated organic, green-labeled items must already have been certified organic by the USDA.

Single-sheet brochures describing each label type, plus an overview of the system, will be available at the stores' concierge desks, said Owens. He added that a complete list of labeled products would eventually appear on Market Street's Web site.

Owens noted that the idea for the labeling system came from focus group research that revealed shoppers were "overwhelmed by choices and information, and wanted help making decisions" about food purchases. Both employees and consumers participated in the focus group research.

Owens explained that the labeling system was launched during the expo because the labels are "really a part of this Living Well concept." The traveling weekend expo, which Owens described to Progressive Grocer as "a very busy three days of activities," includes food product sampling throughout the store, presentations on food trends, and information about such health conditions as diabetes, heart disease, and food and airborne allergies.

In addition, the expo features children's events. Characters from the Nickelodeon series "Rugrats" appeared at the Lubbock Market Street. The next expo will be held April 1 to April 4 at the Wichita Falls Market Street.

The upscale Market Street banner was the natural place to begin the rollout, noted Owens, since United has a Market Street in every one of its major markets. The only exception is Abilene, Texas, where the system will go into a United Supermarket location, which Owens described as being like "a mini Market Street." The rollout to the Market Streets will take place over a year, and then spread out to the company's other banners, he added.

As for the expos, Owens said that after the spring series of events was over, a second series would kick off in the fall, which would focus on other health topics, among them cancer.

In other United news, the company has launched full-service Tuesdays at all 19 supermarkets that have fuel stations. On that day, customers can get their windshields washed and gas pumped for the regular pump price, said Owens, adding that the concept, which was first test-marketed in Amarillo, Tex. a few weeks back, was rolled out company-wide this past Tuesday.

Based in Lubbock, United Supermarkets operates 47 stores in West and North Central Texas under the United Supermarkets, Market Street, and United Supermercado banners.
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