Smart Choices

VA Canteen Services launches healthy campaign.

FoodService Director - VA Canteen Services, NutricateWASHINGTON D.C.—Last fall, the Veteran Canteen Services launched the Smart Choices campaign in its 180 retail locations across the country. According to Carey Filer, director of marketing and communications, the campaign is the brainchild of Marilyn Iverson, director of Veterans Canteen Services.

Health and value: “Smart Choices is more from a marketing standpoint,” Filer says. “We are trying to get the word out to say that besides the things that you think we
traditionally carry, there are many more things that we have.”

Filer says the campaign merges value, health and wellness in both the Patriot Stores and Patriot Cafés. “We’re saying if you go with a side salad, a bowl of soup and a bottle of water it’s 235 calories. We make sure that we are emphasizing these healthy choices for our customers. We are trying to highlight areas of our menu that we do every day that may not necessarily get called out for the health aspect of the meals. We are calling out the fact that when you make a combo meal, we have the traditional things that you can add as a side, but we are also saying get a whole piece of fruit, a fruit cup or a baked potato instead of fries. We are trying to make this much more user-friendly so they can make more informed choices.”

Getting the message out: The campaign highlights marketing efforts Canteen Services had already implemented, such as posting nutritional information online, but several new initiatives also have been rolled out under the campaign, including publishing calorie counts on the back of tray liners. One of the larger parts of the campaign is launching SmartReceipt’s Nutricate system, which prints customized messages on the bottom of receipts.

FoodService Director - VA Canteen Services, NutricateItems sold in the café have been loaded into the Nutricate system. Calories, fat grams, carbohydrates and sodium for the purchased food items are printed on the receipt. “It will also compare that purchase to percent of daily value based on a 2,000-calorie a day diet or a 2,500-calorie a day diet,” Filer says. “It really allows the customer to make informed and better dining decisions.

“One of the benefits is that you are able to tailor the receipt to the specific Patriot Café with that café’s name and phone number,” Filer says. “We can print our Facebook, Twitter and Web addresses on the receipt as well. We are also able to put health tips of the day or graphics in regard to programs that we are running as well. It prints on the front of the receipt and on the back. We are using the back for healthy tips of the day and sustainability messages. We are also using the back to cross merchandise and market between our businesses. Every location has a Patriot Café and typically there is a corresponding Patriot Store. So we are working those receipts back and forth to say, ‘stop by the Patriot Store because we have TVs on sale today.’ The Patriot Store has the same functionality. They don’t use the nutrition analysis near as much, but it has the same capability to print on the back of the receipt and they can put, ‘check out the Smart Choice of the day at the Patriot Café.”

“We really love Nutricate’s ability to provide personalized nutrition information and relevant health tips on the receipt,” says Iverson. “We feel it’s our responsibility to offer as much information as possible on our food choices in order to provide our veterans all the tools necessary to live a healthy lifestyle.”

One current message is about selecting items to dine for 500 calories or fewer. Other messages include, “to reduce your calorie intake on your hamburger, next time hold the mayo or hold the cheese and you will save x amount of calories. Or if you sub out a soft drink with a bottle of water, you will save x amount of calories.”

Filer says the receipts create buzz in the cafés. “It’s self-generating almost,” he says. “Once you start telling customers about it, they are checking out the receipts every time now.”

Jay Ferro, CEO and founder of Nutricate, says they get a 90% engagement rate with customers reading the receipts. “What we found is that one thing that is important is the cashier who is handing the customer the receipt just has to say, ‘hey, check out your receipt. It has your calorie information or here’s a coupon for next time.’ Once consumers understand there is actually valuable information or content that is on these receipts, that’s all you need. Everyone was stuffing receipts into their bags or pockets or throwing them in the garbage because up until now there really wasn’t any value.”

Filer says Canteen Services is working to get calorie counts for items posting on menu boards in the cafés and creating a nutritional brochure. He says the goal of Smart Choices is to hit customers with a variety of messages in a variety of media to get across their healthy eating message.