September, as deemed by the Washington, DC-based Food Marketing Institute, is national Family Meals Month. It’s an initiative that pushes the benefits of eating meals together as a family and encourages Americans to strive for just one more family meal per week.

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee saw an opportunity in Family Meals Month.

Not only did the company offer a kids-eat-free promotion at its Market Grille restaurants, share daily recipes featuring simple ingredients through its social media platforms and highlight grab-and-go dinner options from its prepared food departments, it also took it a step further.

At four locations — one each in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska — Hy-Vee provided a complimentary family meal to a consumer who had signed up online for the chance to win. The family partook in the one-hour meal at a dining table inside the store, where other shoppers were able to observe the family eating together to learn more about the benefits of family mealtime.

“Recent research says that more than three-quarters of families report that conflicting schedules are the main barrier to eating together on a regular basis,” says Hy-Vee chairman, CEO and president Randy Edeker. “That’s why Hy-Vee is providing tips and resources to give families easy, mealtime solutions so they can have at least one more family meal together each week.”

Hy-Vee’s experimental, observational family dinner is a shining example of how retailers are finding ways to reach out to, and educate, their consumers.

Offering new ideas

London-based St. Pierre Bakery brought its line of brioche products to the United States just a handful of years ago. 

And while the French specialty has certainly gained traction since then, everyday consumers still aren’t terribly familiar with its ins and outs.

The company has put substantial resources — both with advertising and instore displays and giveaways — in an attempt to educate consumers.

“Consumer education is important for us since brioche is still a fairly new concept to US consumers,” says Paul Baker, St. Pierre’s founder. “We are thrilled with the consumer response so far and have to attribute this to helping us become the number one brioche brand. This really helps position us as leaders within the brioche space. Therefore, we feel we have this great opportunity to really showcase all the ways brioche can be enjoyed and further educate consumers around why brioche should be a staple ingredient in their pantry.”

The company, for example, highlights its distinctive orange color in vibrant, eye-catching instore displays. They tie in an orange bicycle, and give them to retailers, who can then hold raffles to give away to consumers. 

“People lead busy lives and are seeking convenience and value when shopping,” Baker says. “Consumer education is important, but its only part of the equation. The instore experience is just as important when it comes to capturing customer attention and attracting daily trips.”

Real-time ratings

HowGood, headquartered in New York City, is a sustainable food rating company that comprises the world’s largest database on sustainable food. The company develops, markets and operates a program in supermarkets designed to provide a sustainability score for food products using up to 60 industry-specific indicators.

HowGood pulls its data from more than 350 sources, including the USDA, Fair Trade USA, Seafood Watch, National Dairy Farm Program, Non-GMO Project, Rainforest Alliance and more.

The company works with retailers to provide instore consumer education on products on shelves and around the perimeter. Landover, Maryland-based Giant Food recently expanded HowGood ratings to all 167 of its supermarkets throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“With so many buzzwords, many more marketing than informative, it’s exceedingly difficult for shoppers to quickly assess labels and packaging to determine whether a product fits their standards,” says Mark Adamcik, vice president of sales and merchandising at Giant Food. “The test pilot was so successful, and we got such amazing feedback from our customers, that the decision to expand the ratings into all of our Giant stores was an easy one.”

HowGood uses a ‘Good, Great, Best’ rating benchmark system that lets shoppers know which products are most environmentally friendly, minimally processed and ethically produced. HowGood’s research ensures the following benchmarks are met:

  • Growing Guidelines: rewards more sustainable growing practices and humane animal treatment.
  • Processing Practices: rewards wholesome foods made with minimally processed ingredients.
  • Company Conduct: rewards producers that are honest and ethical in the way they treat their employees, environment, and consumers.

“Our customers appreciate the simplicity of the ‘Good, Great, Best’ rating system, which helps them feel good about what goes into their shopping cart,” Adamcik says. “In fact, nearly 90% of shoppers surveyed during the pilot program confirmed that they would likely use the rating system to choose sustainable products.”

Stop & Shop, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, also uses the HowGood ratings in its 400-plus locations throughout New England, New York and New Jersey.

“Our customers want to make the best choices for themselves, their families and the planet, but it can be overwhelming with so many product offerings available,” says Stacy Wiggins, senior vice president of sales operations for Stop & Shop. “The HowGood program provides easy tools for customers to find products that best meet their needs.”

Supplying seasonal info

San Antonio-based H-E-B helps keep consumers up to date on seasonal offerings on its website and through social media. The Now In Season section of includes the latest seasonal items, like New Harvest Wild Gulf Shrimp, which the company says goes “from the boats to you.”

H-E-B lets consumers know that the company’s special fleet of shrimp boats puts it at the source for freshness and quality. H-E-B oversees the harvesting, inspection and transportation of shrimp, straight from the sea to each retail location.

The page also ties in home meal prep help and sustainability talking points, all in the same place.

Four shrimp-based recipes are included — Blue Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Hummus, Thai Shrimp Tacos, Classic Seafood Paella and a Texas-themed Shrimp Po’ Boy.

Immediately below that is information on the New Harvest Wild Gulf Shrimp Program, which highlights H-E-B’s long history of partnership with Texas Gulf shrimpers. Consumers are informed that not only is the company actively involved in many coastal community programs, it also purchases more Gulf Shrimp than any other retailer in the country.

“Supporting the local wild gulf shrimp industry is part of our commitment to make the future better for our Texas communities,” the company says.