How to Effectively Merchandise Whole Grains
Kristin Reimers, PhD, RD
Nutrition Manager, ConAgra Foods
There are oodles of new whole grain foods hitting stores. In fact, in 2010 twenty times more whole grain foods were introduced worldwide compared to a decade ago. However, many shoppers still prefer refined grains at meals and snacks. Help your customers choose more whole grains with these merchandising tips for your store:
1. Get to know your customers to meet their needs
One of the biggest challenges in the competitive world of retail is to remain relevant to the customers. To better understand customer needs and current food trends, conduct your own nutrition-focused market research.
- Create a simple survey and ask your customers what foods featuring whole grains they are currently buying or would like to see in the store and assess common barriers to choosing whole grains like time, price, taste, convenience, label perception, etc.
- Track sales of a few whole grain items and compare to similar foods in the category. For example, if you notice that potato chips trump whole grain snacks like popcorn, concentrate your efforts on educating consumers about whole grain snack options.
- Keep abreast of food trends to stay on top of new whole grain foods and work with your buyers to be able to offer these items to your customers. By staying ahead of the trends and building relationships with buyers, supermarket RDs can have strong impact on customer shopping behaviors.
2. Take advantage of visual merchandising principles
Work with merchandising and marketing teams to take full advantage of store layout, shelving, signage, and labeling to drive sales of foods containing whole grains.
- Suggest bringing whole grain foods closer to where people shop. Target health-conscious shoppers at the perimeter and try cross-merchandizing whole grain foods with complimentary items. For example, you may choose to create a whole grain snacks endcap next to bottled water.
- Reorganize items based on meal occasion or set up demo meals. Work with your prepared foods department and ask the chef to bring more whole grains to the salad bar.
- Merchandise whole grains by health benefits and don’t hesitate to display key highlights on nutrition shelf tags and signage. For example, display “100% whole grain snack” label next to popcorn or feature products with Whole Grain Stamp like breads and cereal.
3. Create better shoppers through customer engagement and education
From store tours and cooking demos to media inquiries, educating customers on getting nourishing meals with whole grains to the table should be your priority.
- Empower shoppers by teaching how to add whole grains at meals and snacks: offer in-store classes, include whole grains in your cooking demos, and have relevant recipes on-hand.
- Utilize nutrition science to add context to your whole grains recommendations. For instance, “Choosing whole grain snacks like popcorn is an easy step toward optimal health. Researchers found that snacking on popcorn helped people to not only increase their overall intake of whole grains but also decrease their intake of refined grains.” 
- Include whole grain nutrition messages in media interviews, share dietitian-approved snacks on Pinterest, and tweet nutrition tips like “Snacking on popcorn is an easy way to eat more whole grains!”
 Whole Grains Council: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/newsroom/whole-grain-statistics.
 Reimers et al (2012). A Daily Popcorn Snack Increases Whole Grain Intake without Changing Consumption of Other Food Groups. Journ Acad of Nutr and Diet, 112(9).