- New Jersey-based grocer ShopRite has expanded its free fruit program to 35 additional stores in New Jersey and New York, according to a company release. The program, which was launched in 2016, now exists in more than 75 ShopRite stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
- As part of the program, children ages 12 and younger are given a free banana, clementine or other seasonal fruit while shopping with an adult. The healthy snacks program is overseen by ShopRite's in-store dietitians, and the fruit is located in the produce aisle.
- “We believe that teaching children to develop good eating habits at an early age is extremely important," Natalie Menza-Crowe, ShopRite's director of health and wellness, said in the release. "We’re happy to provide our customers with an easy way to demonstrate to their children that fruit is fun and delicious."
Consumer expectations for grocery experiences have greatly evolved over the years. Shopper who were once satisfied with brightly lit formats and fully stocked shelves now seek retailers that also offer in-store cooking classes, a wide variety of foreign produce and ethnic products and restaurant-quality prepared foods.
As the "food as medicine" movement continues to grow, shoppers are also looking for grocers who provide nutritional education. Many retailers have responded to this demand by employing in-store dietitians. Kroger, for example, hired a dietitian to work with a select group of Texas stores to create a "Fork Friendly" program that uses shelf tags to draw attention to healthy food choices.
Other retailers, like Shoprite, have incorporated a kid-focused approach into their nutrition initiatives. Giving fresh fruit to children can give retailers a healthy, family-friendly halo that can help them stand out from competitors. At the very least, the move could help generate goodwill in the community and bolster customer loyalty.
The move can also foster strong bonds between child stoppers and the store, shaping a population of future shoppers who will have fond memories of their grocery shopping experiences. That sense of community and connection might be important to the discount grocer — which has just under 300 stores — as it competes with multinational supermarket chains and e-tailers. The initiative may help ShopRite push back against current trends, which predict that future shoppers increasingly will be going online to buy food.
Experts project online grocery shopping to take up 20% of the market by 2025. If pre-teens begin to see supermarkets as friendly spaces where they can see, smell and taste good food and develop relationships with their grocer, they may be more likely to continue to visit them when they become responsible for doing their own grocery shopping.