Beef CheckFollowing the success of the 2011 American Heart Association (AHA) Food Certification Program pilot test with two grocery chains, the beef checkoff has collaborated with retailers to capitalize on the program's ability to drive incremental beef sales and build customer loyalty. The results from that initial pilot are used to compel other retailers to display the American Heart Association's Heart-Check Mark on-pack. Now retailers are seeing firsthand the impact of the program and the benefits of promoting beef's role in a healthy diet and helping nutrition-conscious shoppers make healthy choices in the meat case.

Hundreds of stores across the U.S. currently display the Heart-Check mark on certified beef items in the meat case and have signed up through the beef checkoff to participate in the American Heart Association Food Certification Program. Two such retailers include California-based Save Mart Supermarkets and Texas-based H-E-B.

Save Mart Supermarkets, which owns and operates 226 stores in Northern California and Northern Nevada under the Save Mart, S-Mart Foods, Lucky, Maxx Value Foods, and FoodMaxx banners, was an early adopter of the American Heart Association Food Certification Program for beef. In 2012, the chain rolled out four of the certified beef items -- Top Sirloin Petite Roast, Top Sirloin Filet, Top Sirloin Kabob and Top Sirloin Strips -- and in February, Save Mart implemented a promotion to increase shopper awareness of the cuts and generate demand for beef with their shoppers. With support from the beef checkoff, the retail chain held nearly 120 cooking and tasting demos of the Top Sirloin Stir Fry in their top 50 highest beef volume stores. Month-long featuring of the cuts, special pricing, in-store radio, on-pack labels and point-of-sale also supported the promotion.

The certified Top Sirloin Stir Fry item that was featured in the demos experienced a 19 percent increase in sales during the promotional period. In addition, overall sales for American Heart Association-certified cuts continued to grow another 2 percent the month post-promotion, with Top Sirloin Stir Fry sales seeing an additional 4 percent growth.

H-E-B is another retail chain that's seen success in working with the checkoff on the American Heart Association Food Certification Program. H-E-B introduced five of the certified cuts in January and is currently working with the beef checkoff on a promotion around the Top Sirloin Filet which will make the product available in 300 of its locations, up from the 100 stores that previously sold the cut merchandised with the Heart-Check Mark. The promotion is running now through July 9 and again July 24-Aug. 6 and includes weekly featuring of the Top Sirloin Filet and an offer for customers to receive a free salad with their purchase of two packages of the AHA-certified Top Sirloin Filet.

The stores will also conduct demonstrations that will feature the filets prepared with the package recipe rub, served over the free salad mix with a light dressing. The beef checkoff created and provided labels, case dividers, recipes for demo and artwork for ads to support the program.

"The reinforcement to consumers that beef offers not only a delicious eating experience but one the American Heart Association has specifically identified as ‘heart-healthy' is positive news for the checkoff," says Jeanne Harland, a beef producer from Illinois and chairman of the checkoff's Nutrition and Health Subcommittee. "We are definitely seeing the American Heart Association-certified beef cuts gaining awareness among consumers and retailers are recognizing the value they bring in the meat case. It's exciting to literally see our checkoff dollars at work in the meat case, providing return on investment to producers, but also providing that visible affirmation to consumers that they are making a nutritious purchase for mealtime. Beef can do a heart good!"

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