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WIC and eat brighter!: Synergy for Produce Sales


By Joe Watson

It’s early May, and many of us are thinking about moms, including those that need a little help making ends meet for their families. Nearly nine million moms and children in the United States have government cash value vouchers to spend on fruits and vegetables. Make sure they are spending it in your stores. Big Bird and Elmo can help you do that.

This money, to be spent only on fruits and vegetables, comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the states, as part of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Each participating mom gets $10 a month and each child (up to age 5) gets $8 a month.

That’s a lot to be spent in your stores every month. As a former retailer, I think about how every WIC-authorized store should use its marketing prowess to attract those moms to produce. Assuming each WIC mom has two kids, that’s $26 a month in spending power. Capture that in your stores with kid-sized snacks, mom-friendly convenience items, and marketing programs like eat brighter!

Winning With Fresh Produce

WIC is a win-win for you and your customers. Moms have money to spend in your stores, and you have delicious produce to keep them and their families healthy. Getting kids to eat produce early as they form taste preferences builds produce consumers for life. They’ll buy more produce throughout their lives for themselves and for their own kids.

USDA notes nearly 46,000 stores are authorized to accept WIC. These vouchers are a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. Moms cannot carry this month’s money into next month, so capture those vouchers every month. Ensure moms are in your store each month seeking produce to maximize the use of their vouchers and care for their family with tasty, healthy foods. Make it easy for them to shop produce every month.

Children are the largest category of WIC participants. Your stores can play a big role in their futures as you make produce attractive to kids and moms. Imagine the preschool set begging mom for fresh fruits and vegetables the way they do in the cereal or candy aisles!

Help that happen; make it easy for moms to choose fruits and vegetables. Offer kid-sized value-priced fruit packs. Consider a multi-pack with a variety of items. Lower the profile of displays to allow kids to see what’s available and choose their favorites.  Offer convenience items that help a busy mom use a lot of fresh produce quickly when she prepares meals. Think about cultural/ethnic preferences of moms in your stores. Offer moms tips and recipes that encourage them to use more produce.

eat brighter! Shines On

You can also appeal to the kids and moms by participating in the eat brighter! movement. This collaboration among PMA, Sesame Workshop and the Partnership for a Healthier America seeks to build fresh produce consumption in the same demographic as the WIC program: kids 2-5 and their families. By carrying produce clad in Big Bird, Elmo and Cookie Monster packaging, you can help moms make the healthy choice the easy choice. How grateful will mom be if your store is the one where her kids are clamoring for oranges or grape tomatoes? I’ll bet she comes back next week and the week after that.

At PMA’s recent Fresh Connections: Retail, we heard from an eat brighter! citrus shipper, Classic Harvest, and retailer Save-A-Lot, which worked together on a value-priced bag of oranges featuring Elmo to target moms and kids, especially WIC recipients. They had a great success. Those moms saw that their supermarket cared about them and their families. Work with your suppliers in the same way to build excitement and sales in produce.

Here at PMA, we are focused on creating greater produce demand; we believe eat brighter! can help drive your produce sales. We also see an amazing synergy between eat brighter! and your customers that receive WIC benefits. Huddle with your marketing folks, your dietitians, your buyers, and your merchandisers to brainstorm how you and Big Bird can make a difference for your customers and your bottom line.

Joe Watson is VP of business development for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

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