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Supermarket Wellness Watch: Coborn’s takes ‘Independent’ approach to community health

BY David Orgel

Independent supermarkets are among the toughest competitors in all of retail. They have survived decades of big-chain and low-price competition by leveraging a unique understanding of their local communities and developing intimate relationships with customers.

However, independents realize they need to continue innovating and performing as the competition intensifies. A case in point is Coborn’s, an independent retailer based in St. Cloud, Minn., which operates 54 grocery stores and 70 convenience, liquor and other retail outlets across the Midwest. Coborn’s is leveraging an innovative health and wellness strategy as a supermarket differentiator. Its approach takes in pharmacy, clinics, better-for-you foods, and lots more in between.

“Health and wellness is a core value of ours,” said Dennis Host, vice president of Marketing, in an interview at the recent NGA Show in Las Vegas, which is focused on independent food retailers and produced by National Grocers Association. “Today consumers are turning more than ever to their supermarkets to help them in their wellness journeys. A lot of people don’t think about supermarkets as an obvious place to go for this. But we’ve got pharmacies, registered dietitians, attribute programs on nutrition labels, and partnerships with healthcare systems, and all these things align.”

Coborn’s is a proponent of developing community partnerships, and one of its most important is with local health system CentraCare Health. This organization has been putting satellite walk-in clinics in a number of Coborn’s locations. These not only meet customers where they are, but also meld seamlessly with Coborn’s own wellness offerings.

“It means we have healthcare services in a grocery store paired up with a pharmacy within feet of that, and then the ability to bring in a registered dietitian if needed,” he said.

This same partnership plays an important role in a new Coborn’s Dietitian’s Choice program now being rolled out to stores. The initiative helps to identify healthier options for shoppers. The retailer’s registered dietitians analyzed some 50,000 products across its outlets to identify 5,000 that carry the Dietitian’s Choice a better-for-you endorsement with accompanying icons on shelf tags. The program has been endorsed by partner CentraCare Health.

The items chosen, according the Coborn’s website, “are lower in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars, include plant sterols, and are good sources of lean protein, heart-healthy fats, whole grains, and fiber.” The Dietitian’s Choice effort is further boosted by an element called Food Facts that leverages algorithms to link products to specific attributes, Host said.

Coborn’s dietitians, meanwhile, lead a number of health and wellness events in local communities, as described online. These include lunch and learns, nutrition seminars, health fairs, culinary classes, and a radio talk show. They are in addition to grocery tours, personal shopping assistance, and personal consultations.

Coborn’s considers wellness such an important topic that it recently hosted a student competition at NGA Show to see which university student group could develop the most on-target health and wellness strategies for the company. It was a learning platform for students and an idea generator for Coborn’s.

Food marketing students from roughly 13 universities competed in the Student Case Study Competition over three days in front of panels of judges, ending in the faceoff between the winning school, Saint Joseph’s University, and the runner-up, Western Michigan University. Some of the strategies suggested ranged from mobile prescription refills to raising awareness of Coborn’s dietitian services. Strategies were positioned as efforts to address the needs of both Boomer and millennial customers.

Host said he was impressed with the student perspectives, and said they shed light on possible opportunities. He pointed in particular to how students identified the potential for serving both younger and older shoppers.

“Younger people see the world through a different lens,” he said. “They are far more conscientious about what they are putting in their bodies compared to any other generation before. And Boomers are realizing they need to eat healthier and make lifestyle changes to extend the runway for themselves.”

Coborn’s realizes it needs to continue pulling in innovative insights from multiple sources and executing well on its strategies. That’s the prerequisite for continuing to outperform against a growing range of competitors and remaining an integral part of local communities.

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Califia Farms dives into dairy-free yogurt drinks

BY Gisselle Gaitan

Califia Farms is expanding beyond its signature line of almond milk into the world of dairy-free yogurt drinks. The Los Angeles-based company announced the launch of its new product, made with the Califia Culture Blend.

The newly unveiled yogurt drinks contain 10 billion live, active probiotic CFUs powered by BB-12 — a highly documented Bifidobacterium — and it is the first time the strain will be featured in a non-dairy yogurt, the company said.

Yogurt Drinks will be available in multi serve and single-serve packs and come in four options — strawberry, super berry, mango and unsweetened plain — which are all low in sugar and flavored with real fruit.

“Increasingly, consumers are realizing the importance of probiotics because of their enormous digestive and immune health benefits,” Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms, said. “And until now, there hasn’t been a non-dairy yogurt that delivers the delicious taste and creamy texture people want. At Califia, we’ve set the gold standard for nut milks and creamers, and were able to create an almond and coconut-based Yogurt Drink that delivers 10 billion live, active probiotics that are truly great tasting.”

Califia Farms’ yogurt drinks will be available in its signature curvy bottle in two sizes, an 8-oz. bottle, which will retail for $2.69 and a 25.4-oz. size for $5.49.

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Hostess announces limited-edition cupcakes

BY Gisselle Gaitan

In order to join the wide craze of cupcakes, Hostess has announced that it will launch three limited-edition flavors to its CupCakes line of products. The three new flavors include:

  • Hostess Mint Chocolate CupCakes are a frosted chocolate cake with a mint filling;
  • Hostess Strawberry CupCakes contain a frosted strawberry cake with cream filling; and
  • Hostess Sea Salt Caramel CupCakes have a caramel-iced yellow cake that is topped with sea salt and a caramel filling.

“As the ultimate affordable indulgence, we can’t ignore the power of the cupcake — worthy of birthday celebrations and after-school snacks, or as the antidote for a mid-afternoon slump,” Keith Peterfeso, Hostess Brands’ brand director for All Day Snacking, said. “Having earned the official title of ‘America’s No.1 Cupcake’ through our market share leadership is just the icing on the cake, so to speak.”

Each of the products comes in multipacks and can be found nationwide wherever products from the Kansas City, Mo.-based company are currently sold.

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