Take it to Heart: Making a Real Impact During American Heart Month
While heart health isn’t a new topic to feature with shoppers, there’s good reason to continue doing so – it sells. According to the 2018 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation, cardiovascular health is the top desired benefit from food among consumers.1 Similarly, a consumer survey conducted by California Walnuts found that consumers are more likely to buy a product containing walnuts if there is heart-specific messaging such as “heart-healthy,” “contains heart-healthy walnuts,” or if it includes the American Heart Association Heart-Check mark, as compared to other health benefits. 2,3
The California Walnut Board (CWB) recognized American Heart Month earlier this year by partnering with various retail chains to showcase the heart health benefits of walnuts through fully integrated programs that resulted in a 13-77 percent walnut sales growth year-over-year (YOY) across the participating retailers. Below are more details about the individual programs.
- The CWB partnered with retail chains in two target markets, Charlotte, NC and Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, to showcase the heart health benefits of walnuts through a fully integrated retail test program – “Simple Steps for Healthy Hearts.” Cub, Coborn’s, Kowalski’s, Food Lion, and Harris Teeter leveraged their efforts around American Heart Month to position walnuts as a simple step that shoppers can take towards making heart-healthy food choices. Spot TV and radio with participating retailer tags promoted the effort, along with print and digital support. Point-of-purchase displays, in-store audio ads, shelf signage, header cards, in-store demos, retailer circular inclusion, and social media ensured that the consumer saw our messaging throughout the path-to-purchase. Integrated activities with Coborn’s retail dietitians elevated the program to educate shoppers on how walnuts and good fats play a role in heart health. The dietitians promoted walnuts through their Wellness Wednesday classes, circular ad content, social media posts, Facebook Live videos, in-store demos featuring a Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats recipe, and in a local media segment around the topic of “Veguary” showing how to enjoy more plant-based foods, like walnuts, to support heart health. Overall sales for the walnut category were up 20 and 18 percent YOY across all retailers in Minneapolis and Charlotte, respectively, including those that participated in the CWB program and those that did not. (Note: The CWB is targeting Sacramento, CA, Denver, CO, and Richmond, VA for this year’s heart health programs.)
- Additional partnerships with retail dietitians included those at Albertsons, Hy-Vee, and Weis.
- The Albertsons’ dietitians promoted walnuts around the theme of “Better Bites.” New recipes were developed by Elaine Magee, Wellness Corporate Dietitian -- Mocha Java Power Bites, Omega Walnut Quinoa Bites, and Light Cookie Dough Performance Balls – and promoted by dietitians during in-store demos and Facebook Live videos, as well as in social posts, a local media segment, and in social posts. The recipes were positioned as being packable, portion-controlled, nutrient-dense bites that have a mix of protein, smart fats, and fiber that give you fuel and energize you.
- California walnuts were featured as the Hy-Vee Dietitian’s Pick of the Month which involved in-store demos of the Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats recipe, educating shoppers on the heart health benefits of walnuts, as well as highlighting walnuts in dedicated displays, intercom announcements, community events, Hy-Vee Balance magazine, a digital newsletter, local media, and social media.
- Weis’ dietitians conducted in-store demos featuring the same Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats recipe as well as information about walnuts and good fats. A coupon for $1 off Weis walnuts was distributed during the demos as well as at the store pharmacies in an “Rx for Health” handout that included three reasons to eat walnuts. The dietitians also did a Facebook Live video to showcase the benefits of plant-based eating and demonstrate how walnuts can be used to add more unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats. Three walnut recipes were demonstrated as examples including Roasted Walnut and Cauliflower Tacos, Mediterranean Walnut Nachos, and Chocolate Walnut Hummus.
With finite time and resources being common concerns, proving return on investment is crucial. Fortunately, the numbers suggest that heart health promotions can be worthwhile. While familiar tactics such in-store demos, classes, and advertisements are key components of a quality program, equally and perhaps more important, is how to implement them into an overall approach that makes the program unique and effective. Below are some of the successful strategies that were utilized by the retailers mentioned above:
- Fully Integrated Approach: From in-store activations such as recipe demos, print materials, advertisements, coupons, and digital content, this approach provides an immersive experience and a cohesive way to promote your message from all angles. Another important factor is collaboration among various departments in the store. In many of the cases above, the retail dietitians worked closely with the produce and/or grocery managers or social media team to optimize the effectiveness of the program.
- Trendy Food Hook: Taste still reigns supreme as a consumer purchase driver.1 Leaning into this by pairing a health message with a food trend that can feature heart-healthy ingredients, such as performance energy bites or overnight oats, can make your message more appealing to shoppers.
- Social Experience: While face-to-face interaction with shoppers is impactful, it is also important to consider the expansive reach through digital tactics like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and social posts. This is an effective way to spread your educational messages, drive shoppers to the store for in-store promotions and increase overall program impressions.
- Industry Partnerships: Teaming up with relevant brands and organizations to share a common message can be a winning move for all, especially to help consumers embrace a more holistic approach to wellness that focuses on overall dietary patterns versus single foods or nutrients. Partnerships offer a number of possible tactics including cross-merchandizing opportunities, larger-scale impacts like increased support from suppliers and industry partners, and extensive media reach. One example is the #TeamGoodFat campaign, which is a collaborative partnership focused on educating and increasing awareness of good-fat foods, like walnuts, salmon, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.
As February approaches, remember that with a little creativity, inspiration from heart-healthy3 foods, like walnuts, and the call-to-action of American Heart Month, positive results are promising -- both for the retail dietitian, and more importantly, for loyal shoppers.
California Walnuts is one example of a commodity board that partners with retail dietitians to support in-store promotions as well as provides resources such as recipes, handouts, social content, and health research. More than 99% of the walnuts in the U.S. are grown in California’s Central Valley, home to more than 4,800 growers that are represented by California Walnuts. There are many companies that sell California-grown walnuts, in branded, as well as private label packaging, which provides flexibility to the retailer as well as the shopper. For more information, visit walnuts.org or contact California Walnuts at email@example.com.
International Food Information Council Foundation. 2018 Food & Health Survey. www.foodinsight.org. Accessed October 28, 2018.
2 California Walnuts Attitude & Usage Survey of 3,032 Americans 18-55 years, Edelman Intelligence, April 2017.
3 Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3.