The Modern Shopper: Allison Primo from Schnuck Markets

The Modern Shopper: Allison Primo from Schnuck Markets

The Modern Shopper brings together the best minds and insights of a diverse group of food retailers and other industry experts to discuss their strategic initiatives and their top of mind challenges. Our focus is around health and sustainability, e-commerce and retail innovation. This series aligns with Spoon Guru’s core mission to help retailers discover a seamless, personalized and accurate product discovery experience for shoppers based on their dietary and lifestyle needs and is hosted by Phil Lempert.

In January 2022, Schnucks launched their innovative Good For You program designed to help their shoppers make healthier food choices both in-store and at home. With the initiative having been very well received by media and customers alike, Allison Primo, Health & Wellness Strategy Manager at Schnuck Markets, spoke to Phil Lempert about the objective of the program, how it works, and what they hope to achieve from it.

This interview runs for 17 minutes.

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Phil Lempert: Welcome to The Modern Shopper. This series brings together the best minds and insights of a diverse group of food retailers and other industry experts to discuss their strategic initiatives and their top of mind challenges. Our focus is around health and sustainability, e-commerce and retail innovation. The Modern Shopper series aligns with Spoon Guru’s core mission to help retailers discover a seamless, personalized and accurate product discovery experience for shoppers based on their dietary and lifestyle needs. I’m your host, Phil Lempert.

Phil Lempert: Today’s very special guest is Allison Primo, who received her bachelor’s and master’s in Nutrition Science from St. Louis University. Needless to say, a St. Louis native, she’s been a practicing R.D. for over five years and currently the Health and Wellness Strategy Manager at Schnuck Markets based in St. Louis. Her passion is helping customers eat a little healthier by finding ways to meet them wherever they are on their health journey and offer tools to help them take steps forward to reach their wellness goals. She loves to cook and try new foods. She invites me over all the time, but hey, I’m in California, she’s in St. Louis! She shares it often with family and friends, and firmly believes in the motto that all foods can fit into a well-balanced diet. Allison, welcome to The Modern Shopper.

Allison Primo: Thanks for having me, Phil. Good to be here. And you can come to St. Louis anytime.

Phil Lempert: Well, thank you.

Allison Primo: Happy to have you over for dinner.

Phil Lempert: One of those big, great thick steaks.

Allison Primo: Oh, we’ll have to see as long as we have a side of veggies with it.

Phil Lempert: OK, I’ll take you up on that. Yeah. So tell us about the launch of the Good For You program. You know – a little bit more about the details of it, your partnership with Spoon Guru. And basically, you’re a trailblazer with this. You’ve created a brand new way to simplify the messages around health, make it easy for shoppers to find and choose healthy items in the store. Tell us about Good For You.

Allison Primo: Yeah. So we just launched the Good For You program at Schnucks at the beginning of January, and I think this timing was just right for our customers. You know, everyone wanders into January after the holidays and is looking for those resolutions or ways that they can improve their health. So this was a great timing for us because we were able to have this available when health was top of mind for our shoppers. And so the Good For You program is a free wellness program for our customers, and it’s set up through our Schnucks Rewards loyalty program. So the great thing is that it’s free to any of our customers. And what it does is identify nutritious items at Schnucks and helps customers keep track of their Good For You purchases. So it really combines nutrition science, the data science, and the behavioral science to give customers the tools they need to eat a little healthier and motivate them to stick with those healthier choices.

Phil Lempert: So, Allison, you know, you mentioned the timing and certainly what we find every year is New Year’s resolutions. I want to be healthier, I want to lose weight and so on. But talk to me about the pandemic. How has that changed what consumers, what the Schnucks shoppers are really looking for and their awareness – are they more concerned about health now than they were two years ago?

Allison Primo: Yeah, I think you bring up a great point about the impact the pandemic has had on our shoppers, and it really has pushed health to the top of their minds and they have been reaching out and asking us to provide those healthier options to them. So as a neighborhood grocery store, we really feel like it’s our role to promote these healthier choices and make it easier for our shoppers to find them throughout the store. And that’s just one way that Good For You fits into that puzzle is offering these solutions to customers and making it easier for them to take steps forward on their journey.

Phil Lempert: Talk to us a bit about the nutrition criteria of Good For You. I’m imagining that you didn’t sit there with 50,000 products and read every label. What is the criteria that you were able to create to make this a seamless for shoppers and as accurate as possible?

Allison Primo: Yeah. So I think you probably are super aware with that, Phil, is that health can be very confusing to customers. And there’s a lot of science and research that goes behind what really constitutes a healthier choice in the store. So the biggest thing for us was having a partnership with Spoon Guru in order to help us curate our list of Good For You items and really rooting it back to the science. Looking at things like FDA guidelines, USDA Dietary Guidelines, American Heart Association to set up nutrition criteria that would span across categories and really hold true to the truth of what is nutritious and making those choices easy for customers to find without the headache of having to read every label when they’re going through the store.

Phil Lempert: You bring up an interesting point – that headache of looking through every product. So how have you made it easier for people, whether it’s in-store or on the app, to identify what these Good For You products are?

Allison Primo: 

What we’ve done is made it easy for customers to find these by adding an orange attribute that says Good For You with a white thumbs up on it. And so we’re telling people, hey, thumbs up – this item is Good For You – and marking those in our wellness guide on our app. But then also having those come to life on shelf tags in stores so they aren’t quite there yet, but we’re working on getting those printed soon because we feel like having that on-the-shelf tag while the customer is shopping just makes it so much easier to nudge them in the direction of choosing those healthier options at point of purchase.

Phil Lempert: One of the things that I hear from shoppers is that they can identify, certainly with a program like Good For You, what products they should be buying at that point in time. But talk to me about the long term effects. What, if anything, are you doing to help them after that one shop? But being able to look for three months, six months a year at how their purchase behaviors changed?

Allison Primo: Yeah, you bring up a really great point there Phil – that one individual shopping trip isn’t going to tell the whole story. So I think one part of the program that we’ve put in place is by helping customers track their Good For You purchases. So once they opt in to the Good for You program, which is another piece of the program that we’ve created as an optional experience for our customers to join because we know that as a conventional grocery store, not all of our customers are ready to make those changes. Not everyone is interested in health. We do have a large population that is saying, yes, I’m interested in health – show me how to find those options and help me or give me the tools to to improve my health. But not all of them are. And so by giving our customers the option to opt in, it’s really providing them an opportunity to take that step forward and say, hey, I’m interested in health. To go back to your question is – once our customers opt in to the program, what we’ve done is changed the way that their receipts

will look. So whether they get a printed receipt or receipts through our app digitally, we’ll have a message on the bottom of the receipt that will provide them with the total number of Good For You items that they bought, as well as a percentage of the food items in their cart that were Good For You so that will allow them to get a quick snapshot of how they did on that shopping trip. But like you said, not just one shopping trip tells that full story. So we’ll be creating monthly reports to send out to the customers so that they can see their averages over time and use this as a way to see progress on where they’re doing well and maybe some areas that they could improve.

Phil Lempert: So what it sounds like to me is my comment at the beginning of our conversation, where I said I’m coming over for steak, and very quickly in a nanosecond you said with vegetables, basically what you’re doing is taking that same attitude and adding it through technology to the app and to their shopping experience.

Allison Primo: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that brings up a point that all of our customers are in different spots in their health journey. You have some that are probably, you know, super healthy, whereas this is just another tool that they can add to increase, you know, their health and well-being lifestyle. But we have other customers who are likely just starting out and need, you know, those baby steps to understand that we’re not trying to overhaul their whole lifestyle. We really want to be able to understand or help them understand what are you doing now and where can you make changes and taking it one step at a time, whether it’s adding, you know, one whole grain over a refined grain or adding one more fruit or one more vegetable and trying to slowly take these changes and make them lifelong habits for our customers.

Phil Lempert: So this is a big deal and a big job, and certainly by using technology, using A.I, your in-house nutrition expertize, this has been huge. So talk to me for a moment about how you and the folks at Spoon Guru were able to work together to frankly, from a consumer standpoint and from a Schnucks standpoint, have the confidence in this list that you’ve put together and, you know, evoke shopper trust.

Allison Primo: Yeah, I think that the partnership that we’ve had with Spoon Guru has been instrumental to the launch and success of the Good For You program so far. And internally, health and wellness is very important to Schnucks but we don’t have a very large team. You know, it’s just a few of us and then I’m the only dietitian. So to have Spoon Guru not only understand the data side of things, but also have that in-house nutrition expertize, it’s really provided a great relationship and offered us confidence to know that what they’re sending over is correct and trustworthy for our customers. So it’s been really nice to have them, to have the nutrition expertize on their side because it’s allowed us to collaborate and really provide the best information to our customers.

Phil Lempert: So you and I spend a lot of time in supermarkets. We talk to a lot of shoppers. We hear that they want to be healthier. They want to buy healthier. But sometimes we have to nudge them a little bit, give them, you know, some pushes, whether it’s through discounts or coupons or special offers or recipes. Are you doing any of that?

Allison Primo: Yeah, we definitely are. Those are all pieces that we’ve built into the Good for You program. I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. There’s so many parts around health that customers see as barriers to sticking with it and so with the Good For You program and our customer group that has opted in to be a part of this community. We are setting up tailored digital offers through coupons and incentives and special offers that really meet their needs, but also nudge them in direction to continue to choose these healthier options. And then through that piece too, you know, we often hear healthy eating is so expensive. How am I going to be able to adjust to this lifestyle and stick with it? And so that’s again where we’re coming in and trying to subsidize some of those, whether it’s through some of those special offers or discounts to get past that hurdle of it being expensive or point out, you know, areas in the store where you can find those more affordable choices looking in the frozen department, looking in the canned aisles or centers store, thinking beyond just fresh produce, good for you really does span across the whole store so that no matter what your price point is, we can find solutions to help you eat healthier and live that health and wellness lifestyle.

Phil Lempert: So for the Schnucks customers, they range in age, from seniors to Baby Boomers to Generation X. You know, when somebody is a senior and they might have some disease states, it’s probably easier to get them to eat healthy than, you know, 20, 25 year old who sees the world as their oyster and they could eat anything. So are you doing anything to really be able to relate to the younger generation who grew up on video games, who grew up on technology to get them to eat healthier at an early stage in life?

Allison Primo: Yeah, that’s something that we’re working on right now, we’re just in the beginning stages of getting the program launched, offering those elements of the program that make it easier for all of our shoppers. But that’s kind of the next phase. How can we gamify health? How can we use those digital tools to set up challenges or games where shoppers and customers can engage more with Schnucks and in our app and win prizes or find ways that really make it fun where they get badges or, you know, free items just for making those healthier choices. So we’re not quite there yet, but it is something that we’re working on and knowing exactly that. You know, if healthy eating can be fun, then it’s taking the chore out of it. It’s not this mentality of, oh, I have to eat healthy, I have to eat a salad. But you know, how can we meet their specific personalized lifestyle and change the narrative around what it means to eat healthy and make it enjoyable? Because if it’s fun, if it’s easy, then it’s more likely to stick and become a regular habit or lifestyle for a customer.

Phil Lempert: So, Allison, I know one of your favorite phrases is that eating healthy isn’t an all or nothing approach, and with one small change at a time, your shoppers can improve their health. That’s great, and it’s great wisdom that I hope that every retailer and every consumer you know, can embrace. Allison, congratulations on. Good For You. Great job, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Modern Shopper.

Allison Primo: Great. Thanks so much for having me, Phil.

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Phil Lempert