How to navigate food marketing in the grocery store

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

 

A visit to our favorite grocery store can become routine. We know where items are located and we pick up our favorite brands.

What we may not understand is why the grocery store is laid out the way it is. Why are some items displayed at the end of an aisle or at the cash register? Why do some brands get shelved at eye level while other brands get the bottom shelf or the very top one? The answer is food marketing.

Nearly all large American supermarket chains generally follow the same layout, offer the same products, and use the same display techniques, according to Gary Rivlin, an investigative reporter who wrote “Rigged: Supermarket Shelves for Sale” for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2016.

Grocers use a plan to keep customers efficiently moving through the aisles and spending money. End aisle displays, center aisle cardboard displays and the checkout aisle are prime real estate to sell more products, often as impulse buys. Food manufacturers pay for these locations in large grocery store chains, Rivlin found. Grocers only have so much space, so it may be necessary for food manufacturers to make a deal.

The payments or trade fees that manufacturers make to retailers influence which products are offered and how they are displayed. Many consumer and nutrition advocates believe these placements help drive what we buy. Rivlin says contracts can insure that manufacturers’ products will be in the store and be well located. They may even pay to have them featured in the weekly advertisement or on the supermarket’s website.

The “bull’s-eye zone” is the front and center location on the shelf that manufacturers often pay for. Similar products by brands that are not nationally recognized may be below this eye-level location and can cost less. Top shelves may hold some local items or products from small companies that the store’s management has chosen.

Space by the cash register is prime. It’s often stocked with candy because many shoppers don’t go in the candy aisle. But everyone needs to go through the checkout. Impulse buys at the checkout can account for more than half of a candy-maker’s profits in a store.

Mary Story, associate director for academic programs at the Duke Global Health Institute, is a leading scholar on child and adolescent nutrition and child obesity prevention. In Rivlin’s report, she says: If you look at the checkout aisle and the endcaps, it tends to be soda and snacks and other highly processed foods. If you want people to eat healthier — and if you don’t want them to get soft drinks or Pop-Tarts or chips or any of these foods that are highly processed — we need to better understand the factors that put those foods there in the first place.”

Trade fees can also include a slotting fee that manufacturers pay just to get their product in a store. The Federal Trade Commission studied slotting fees in 2001 and 2003. The FTC noted the fees shut out smaller competitors and meant fewer choices for consumers but both reports concluded further study was needed before the federal agency could take action.

Your favorite grocery store may or may not be operating with trading fees but it still pays to be a savvy shopper. Here are some tips to help you be a better shopper – and eat healthier:

  • Always shop with a list and stick to it to help avoid impulse buys. Often our impulses tend toward less healthy products with more sugar and more sodium.
  • If you’re pulled to an end aisle display, check similar products in the aisle itself to see if the displayed product is really a good deal. Then check up and down the shelf, not just the products at eye level. You may even find a product that’s lower in sugar and sodium. For example, I find my favorite unsalted chicken stock on the bottom shelf. I’ve never found it on an end aisle.
  • Experiment with new brands of a product. If you’ve used the same brand for decades, you may be pleasantly surprised to find another that tastes good and is healthier.
  • Buy more fresh produce since trade fees are rarely allotted in this area. It will also help you eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Promote a healthier checkout space by requesting a candy-free aisle in your favorite store.

Take cabbage beyond St. Patrick’s Day {#HealthyRecipes for the cabbage lover)

(Guest Post from Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health}

St. Patrick’s Day brings out the cabbage. It’s the biggest holiday for fresh green cabbage consumption in America, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

cabbage

The Irish found cabbage a sustainable vegetable during the Great Potato Famine that began in 1845. Cabbage grew well in Ireland and when the potato crops failed, cabbage was the main course in many meals. The Irish ate a lot of it – about 65 pounds per person each year based on crop production at that time.

Cabbage is a green leafy vegetable that is known as a cruciferous vegetable. It’s related to broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. High in vitamin C, cabbage also contains vitamin K that’s good for bone health and contains phytochemicals called indoles that may help prevent cancer. The inexpensive vegetable is easy to grow and stores well through the winter.

Varieties include green cabbage, which is known as the king of cabbage, and red cabbage, which is similar but has dark red or purple leaves. Then there’s Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, which is oblong shaped and has thick yellow-green leaves. Savoy cabbage has the round shape similar to green cabbage but has crinkly dark green leaves. Bok choy is another loose-leaf variety with dark green leaves and tender stems.

Cabbage can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried, sautéed, stewed or pickled. Pickling or fermenting is one of the favorite ways to preserve cabbage, such as creating sauerkraut or kimichi. Kimichi, which is often made with Chinese cabbage, is a spicy condiment often found in Korean recipes.

Avoid overcooking cabbage. Its characteristic flavor comes from glucosinolates, which contain sulfur. Overcooking cabbage produces a hydrogen sulfide gas that releases its unpleasant odor.

Expand your menus beyond corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Here are some tasty recipes that use the budget-friendly and healthy vegetable.

Here’s a great low-sodium alternative to corned beef and cabbage.

Cabbage and Beef Hot Dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
1½ cups onion, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots (about 2 cups), grated
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 cups green cabbage, shredded
3 cups red cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Add olive oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and brown. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, salt, pepper and hot pepper. Cook until cabbage is soft, about 15 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition facts
Serving size, 2 cups; calories, 215; total fat, 10 grams; saturated fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 50 milligrams; sodium, 200 milligrams; potassium, 640 milligrams; carbohydrates, 15 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein, 17 grams.

Celery Seed Coleslaw
14-ounce package classic coleslaw mix (or 4 ½ cups shredded fresh cabbage and 1 cup shredded carrots)healthy coleslaw recipe
2 stalks (¾ cup) celery, diced
1 small (¾-cup) green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons distilled vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon celery seed
⅓ cup olive oil mayonnaise

Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. In separate small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, olive oil, celery seed and mayonnaise. Mix well with a wire whip. Add dressing to vegetables and mix well. Yield 10 servings.

Nutrition facts
Servings size, ½ cup; calories, 55; total fat, 3.5 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 65 milligrams; potassium, 110 milligrams; carbohydrates, 5 grams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 1 gram; and calcium, 25 milligrams.

This recipe is a lower sodium alternative to sauerkraut. Sauerkraut has about 750 milligrams of sodium in one-half cup.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 small head (8 cups) red cabbage, shredded
1 large (1 1/2 cups) Granny Smith apple, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Put oil, cabbage, apples, onion and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the vinegar and water. Add salt, pepper and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. If you want it thicker, mix 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons cold water in a cup until smooth. Add to cabbage mixture and simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until liquid thickens. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size, ½ cup; calories, 120; total fat, 3.5 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 90 milligrams (if you added optional salt); potassium, 200 milligrams; carbohydrates, 22 grams; fiber, 2.5 grams; protein, 1 gram.

This soup is a great low-calorie, low-sodium vegan option.

Cabbage Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
½ pound carrots, sliced
½ bunch celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
½ pound frozen green beans
28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
½ head green cabbage
6 cups unsalted vegetable broth
¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Add garlic and onion to a large soup pot along with the olive oil and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and transparent. Add carrots, celery, bell pepper and frozen green beans. Add diced tomatoes (and their juices) and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Allow the vegetables in the pot to heat while you chop the cabbage. Chop the cabbage into 1-inch strips or squares, then add to the pot. Add the vegetable broth, chopped parsley, paprika, oregano and thyme. Stir to combine. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the pot to simmer until the cabbage is tender (about 20 minutes). Finish the soup with lemon juice. Start by stirring in one tablespoon of lemon juice and add more to your liking. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition facts
Serving size, 2 cups; calories, 120; total fat, 2 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 200 milligrams; potassium, 730 milligrams; carbohydrates, 22 grams; fiber, 6 grams; protein, 3 grams.

Bonnie Brost of Essentia Health

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health

It’s Dr. Seuss Week! Wacky Crafts and Fun Books to help Kids Celebrate

March 2 is Dr. Seuss’s birthday and also NEA’s Read Across America Day!

In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA’s Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students’ reading.”-NEA website

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child”

You can’t read Dr. Seuss books without being inspired by the vibrant colors and crazy characters. To help celebrate the day, I’ve discovered the motherlode of Seuss-inspired kids’ activities and books that will keep your kids reading and crafts for days. Enjoy!

Childhood 101 has a great list of 25 of the best-known Dr. Seuss books for kids!

Dr seuss booklist

Jump Into a Book has an awesome booklist of Lesser Known (but still lovely) Dr. Seuss books.
Lesser Known Dr. Seuss Books

dr seuss

Activities!

To celebrate, We Are Teachers put together this FREE printable calendar for March, which includes a different Dr. Seuss quote for every day! Download it and share it with your teacher friends and students will love getting new daily inspiration.

Dr seuss

Lorax Cause and Effect Printable Game from Inspiration Laboratories

Dr. Seuss

Create a color word game inspired by Green Eggs and Ham. Learn how at Growing Book by Book

Dr Seuss activities

Play this adorable Horton Hears a Who Activity from JDanielFoursMom for Dr. Seuss Week!

Dr Seuss activities

Create a Letter Recognition game for Green Eggs and Ham from Devany at Still Playing School

Dr SEuss Activities

Dr. Seuss Craft: Color Mixing Truffula Trees from The Lorax from School Time Snippets

Interactive Reading – Cat in the Hat with DIY Thing Puppets and Preschool Powol Packets

I also found this wonder Dr. Seuss Classroom Pinterest Board!

Dr Seuss Classroom

Happy reading and crafting!


Sunday Spotlight: Tanya Swanson of Premier Pet Lodge in Malmo

I am always thrilled when women-owned or mom-owned businesses reach out to me to be part of my Sunday Spotlight feature. To be able to shine the Sunday Spotlight on these businesses is always fun for me and an honor as well. The spirit, drive and determination of Minnesota women never ceases to amaze me and Tanya Swanson is one of those women.

Tanya and Mike Swanson have just opened a pet lodge near Mille Lacs Lake. Tanya is a veterinary technician who homeschools the couple’s four kids. The Swansons have also recently built a completely brand-new facility to board the pets of the Brainerd Lakes area.

Premier Pet Lodge

Premier Pet Lodge is the result of almost 20 years of hard work and big dreams for the Swanson family and Tanya has been a Certified Veterinary Technician for 14 years. She has years of experience working in the veterinary field, including The Minnesota Zoo, The Wildlife Rehab Center of MN, the MN DNR and a variety of veterinary clinics. She also has a B.S. in Conservation Biology. Mike is a Certified Medical Coder and also has years of experience in animal care. They have four fantastic kids who are excited to help out whenever they can as well.

tanya1

The Premier Pet Lodge is committed to:

  • Respect, honesty and communication
  • Serving God, our family and our community, both human and animal
  • Making environmentally-conscious choices in our business
  • Continued professional growth and training
  • Investing in the dreams of others

Q: Tell us about your business. When did you start and how long you’ve been in business too.

Tanya: In January of this year we opened Premier Pet Lodge on our 40 acre property in Malmo, near the east side of Mille Lacs Lake. It was a labor of love that we began to pursue in October of 2015, when we visited the Small Business Development Center at Central Lakes College. I don’t know if we would have made it this far without their support! Once we had our business plan, projections and financing ready we built a brand-new facility from the ground up.

Premier Pet Lodge

Q: Share what attracted you to this business, and what you like most about it.

Tanya: I’ve been in the animal field for almost 20 years. I began with a degree in the field of Wildlife Conservation and worked in wildlife rehab and animal rescue through college. After graduation I decided I wanted to have a more hands-on approach to caring for animals and became a certified veterinary technician 12 years ago, working in a variety of animal-related positions. I loved my career…and then I started having babies of my own! Four babies later,  I found myself looking for a way to use my skills (which were a big part of my identity) and still be home to help my children learn and grow. I love that I’m able to pursue my passion for helping animals while providing for my family. It’s been really empowering.

Q:What has been your biggest business challenge with your business thus far?

Tanya: The biggest challenge I’ve had so far is learning to juggle all the aspects of business, caring for my home, homeschooling and finding time at the end of the day to unwind. Luckily I have an amazing husband who carries half the weight.

Premier Pet Lodge

Q:What business goals to do you have for 2017? 

Tanya: My business goals for 2017 are to put the finishing touches on our building and start to offer some new services and products that maybe aren’t readily available in other places! We love to use organic and natural products in our home and with our animals, and we try to extend that to the pet lodge as well. I have a real interest in nutrition and wellness for pets and I love to help owners find natural solutions to common health problems. Our ultimate goal for 2017 is to be busy enough that my husband can work from home with us.

Q: Which one your products (or services) are you favorite and why?

Tanya: We have a few really great organic and natural products coming for pets. I’d like to offer a small selection of really great products that I think every pet owner should have. We provide essential oil support to our guests if the owner is interested, which can help with everything from stress to pain. It’s been really fun to see the difference that can make. Like many moms, I’m a research nut.

Q: Tell us about your family.

Tanya: I’ve been married to my husband Mike for 12 years and we have four children….2 girls and 2 boys, ages 13 months to 9 years. We’ve homeschooled since pre-school and we love it. We have a fantastic homeschool “group” in our town and we spend many days learning together. We also have an amazing Bulldog/Rottweiler named Blue, a guinea pig, and two cats. All of our animals are rescues.

Premier Pet Lodge

Q: What advice do you want to share for moms/women in business?

Tanya: My best piece of advice is to lean on the support of people who really care about you for help when you need it. I’m surrounded by women who build me up, pray for me, and support me in whatever capacity I need. My grandma has owned her own business for many years as a designer, and she’s been a great example to me!

Q: Other mompreneurs are always curious how others juggle the work/life balance and you’ve added homeschooling to the mix! Any advice/tips for women running a business and raising a family?

Tanya: I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’ve got that balance totally perfected. I try to think in the long term and pray that it all evens itself out! I’m typing this I’m breastfeeding a baby who’s kicking the keyboard and listening to my 3 yr old tantrum while my husband folds the laundry. At the end of a week I look back and say, how did we do? Some weeks make me proud and some weeks make me cringe! I really depend on my girlfriends and my relationship with Jesus to get me through.

Q:What do you want readers of Mom Squad Central to know about your business?

Tanya: I would love the readers of Mom Squad to know that the pets who stay with us become part of our family. Our business is built on a desire to serve our community, and I believe we will do that in even bigger ways than I can imagine right now. Also, we do a monthly give-away of a BarkBox for one of the pets who stays with us each month!

Q: If you could pick one thing that you love the most about your business, what would it be?

Tanya: My favorite thing about our business is forming relationships with other people in our community! People love their pets so much, it’s so hard to leave them. We try to be that place where the pets feel safe.

Q:Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Linked-In?

Tanya: You can find us on facebook.com/premierpetlodge and Twitter @premierpetlodge.

Q: If you could “bust out” and do ONE crazy thing in your lifetime (with no consequences) what would that be? 

Tanya: If I could do one thing, I’d pack my family up and travel the world for a whole year! I’ve always dreamed of “worldschooling” my kids and myself!

Q: If you had to choose one word that sums up your focus for 2017, what would it be?

Tanya: LOVE

Connect with Tanya and the Premier Pet Lodge at  (320) 372-2148 and  website www.premierpetlodge.com

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