Finding the right match with fast feeders

May 07, 2012

How much health does your store marquee brand stand for? A fast-food partner should be approximately the same.

Supermarkets that want to offer quick prepared foods with sit-down convenience might prefer that branded fast-feeders run a branch on the selling floor. After all, this brings co-branding appeals, incremental revenue and an ability to help shoppers pause, regroup and extend their trips.

Yet as Americans aim to eat healthier, and supermarkets assort, merchandise and otherwise invest in this shift, The Lempert Report urges retailers to rethink whether their partner fast-food brand supports or detracts from what the supermarket marquee brand stands for. Does it project enough of a healthful image, which is becoming more important to stores today?  

Certainly, convenience, great taste and fun also matter. But stores with dietitians and farmers’ markets, for example, seem to be likelier candidates for healthier choices like grilled turkey burgers, salads and yogurt than tacos, hot dogs and fries. We understand a fast feeder may be no worse for consumers than many of the processed foods in center-store, but as a high-profile co-brand it should approximately match the health message of a store.

According to Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a watchdog group, some of the nation’s leading healthcare institutions—Vanderbilt Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Parkland Health & Hospital System—ended contracts with McDonald’s for this same reason in recent years.  The hospitals denote health to the communities they serve, and they want to provide a healthier food environment for the families they care for. In short, no more implied endorsements of fast foods—and CAI recently sent a letter to 22 hospitals urging that they take similar steps.

We’re not urging that supermarkets do the same. But with more control of their own prepared-foods sections, supermarkets could promote a wholesome image—not only with better-for-you food choices, but also with marketing for family nights, game nights and other perennial social activities.