retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

There’s no doubt that family meals provide much more than sustenance. Research repeatedly shows that children who regularly share meals with their family achieve higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and weight, and less risky behavior.

As any parent will tell you, the challenge is getting everyone to the table at the same time, and providing healthy food. When my daughters were younger and my husband’s job took him to another city every week, our Sunday dinners were sacrosanct. We would start jointly planning the menu mid-week, and always had candles on the kitchen table. It was my favorite night of the week. However, attempts to replicate that relaxed meal other evenings were less successful.

Or, to quote the Food Marketing Institute Foundation’s Cathy Polley: "Juggling the demands of modern life—school, sports, jobs and long commutes—can sabotage the best laid plans for family meals.”

So FMI and some 75 retail and manufacturing partners are promoting September as National Family Meals Month, encouraging households to add one more breakfast, lunch of dinner together each week – a move long advocated here at MNB.

FMI also recently recognized retailers that have been ahead of the curve on this, giving Gold Plate Awards to Price Chopper for the Family Mealtimes Matter program launched in 2008, Acme Fresh Market of Ohio for its family meals campaign, Ahold USA for its Savory: Fast, Fresh and Easy meal platform and Ben’s Beginners, the parent-child cooking program from Uncle Ben’s Brand rice.

This month FMI is providing the toolkit and #RaiseYourMitt hashtag, and we are following how retailers are activating and promoting #FamilyMealsMonth on social media.

Among the more innovative is the Hy-Vee Dinner Crasher video on Facebook, Twitter and its area YouTube channel. The clip shows Papillion, Nebraska, store chef Keith Walsh surprising a local family of four in their home, creating a dinner of watermelon salad, pasta with smoked chicken, corn, zucchini, mushrooms and parmesan, and a waffle with peach ice cream, brandied peaches, caramel and whipped cream. (Hy-Vee calls its Diner Crashing was fun way to show customer appreciation, and Keith chose this family based on the kids’ obvious culinary interest during family shopping trips.)

Indiana-based Martin’s Super Markets has a two-pronged approach, holding family cooking classes at area stores and encouraging customers to post a photo and description of their “Family Meal Masterpiece” to win a weekly $100 gift card.

Acme Fresh Market wants Facebook fans to share a photo or a few words about a memorable family meal moment to be entered to win one week of family meals delivered to their doorstep by its catering team. Weis Market’s clientele is being asked to upload a photo of a favorite meal and family for a chance to win one of four $100 gift cards this month.

I think the success of these promotions hinges on consumer engagement – in store, on social media and in the kitchen. There has to be a connection. If a retailer makes it easy for the parent on dinner duty to turn a Facebook or Instagram recipe for chicken pot pie into a family meal using a store prepared rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables and puff pastry, bingo, that is a connection. It will bring that mom or dad back to the social media platform, and more importantly, back to the store.

The Hy-Vee campaign works because the chain’s social media sites and Pinterest deliver content – family meal suggestions, recipes, and how to-videos.

We’re always interested to learn what retailers, marketers and manufacturers are doing to promote healthy family meals – in the store and on social media – so please share your examples by emailing me at .
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