Grocers in Fort Worth, Texas, are doing their part to improve the health of the city’s residents.
Nicknamed “Cowtown” for the role of the cattle industry in its history, Fort Worth has seen many changes over the years, including a population growth rate ranking it among the fastest-growing U.S. cities.
The latest transformation? After a five-year effort to make healthy choices easier throughout the community, Fort Worth has had a “dramatic increase in well-being,” says the Blue Zones Project. It is now the world’s largest certified Blue Zones Community, a place where the environment is shaped to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. That achievement occurred in October 2018, thanks to 20 local grocery stores that took part in in the comprehensive effort—including Central Market.
Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being improvement initiative that incorporates best practices of the world’s longest living people, from parts of the world identified as Blue Zones. People in those areas “move naturally, eat with a plant slant, live with purpose and put family first,” the organization says.
To become a certified Blue Zones Community, Fort Worth partnered with grocers, schools, worksites, community leaders, neighborhoods, organizations and others to create an environment that supports well-being. Central Market, part of H-E-B’s Central Market division, was one of the first grocers to recognize the impact Blue Zones Project could have on the community’s well-being, and implemented Blue Zones Project principles for both customers and employees.
“Blue Zones Project aligns with H-E-B’s current focus on improving the health and well-being of its workforce, as well as making healthy choices easier for our customers,” said Austin Jourde, GM, Central Market-Fort Worth. “We were excited to be part of an effort to improve community well-being, and we have seen the positive financial impact of these changes as well.”
Central Market remerchandised two checkout lanes to include Blue Zones Project signage and healthy snack options, including fresh fruit, low-sugar items and whole-grain snack options. The grocer also introduced signage on Blue Zones foods throughout the store, including on bulk items and in the chef-prepared case. In addition, the store has incorporated Blue Zones foods and Blue Zones-inspired chef’s case items into its pricing and shelf tag system, ensuring that these items remain during frequent price and signage changes, a system unique to Central Market and illustrative of H-E-B’s commitment to healthier choices. Central Market even included Blue Zones Project principles and highlights from the Blue Zones story in several plant-based cooking classes at the Central Market Cooking School.
As a result of those efforts, the store saw a trend of sales increases in Blue Zones Project checkout lanes, installed in fall 2014 (based on data collected through 2017). Sales of healthy items increased at three times the rate of overall store sales increases, with a profit margin that warranted the shelf space. Total sales for all SKUs in the checkout lanes increased more than 9 percent, compared to 5 percent in a similar Dallas store without Blue Zones Project lanes. The store’s total daily customer transactions average was nearly three times that of a typical grocery store.
“Grocers play a big part in helping all of us make healthier choices,” said Matt Dufrene, VP of Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth. “Central Market is one of many businesses that has made a significant difference in making Fort Worth a healthier community.”