EXCLUSIVE SURVEY


                                                          SUPERMARKET CHAINS
                                                   Grocery stores are catering to kids—and their parents—in ways never seen before.
                                                   For Child’s special report, we crisscrossed the country checking out the goods and

                                                   services they’re offering to keep families happy. By Maureen Sangiorgio • Photography by David Nicolas

                                                              aking kids along to the supermarket is a practical and        comprehensive 46-question survey to 44 retailers. The first of its

                                                   t          essential part of family life. Retailers are realizing that
                                                              making the experience enjoyable for kids and parents is
                                                              vital to their success. From offering supervised play areas
                                                              and child-friendly carts to providing candy-free check-
                                                   outs and diaper-changing areas in restrooms, supermarkets have
                                                   reinvented themselves as family-friendly destinations.
                                                      To determine which supermarket chains are the best for
                                                                                                                            kind, the survey, developed with the expert advisory-board mem-
                                                                                                                            bers listed on page 160, examined the features mentioned earlier
                                                                                                                            plus fun children’s activities, special parking for pregnant women
                                                                                                                            and families, food safety standards, speedy service, contributions
                                                                                                                            to the community, and in-store services like banks and dry cleaners.
                                                                                                                            From a supermarket that rewards moms with free spa treatments
                                                                                                                            to one that has a kids’ festival with clowns and jugglers every
                                                   families, Child embarked on a five-month investigation, sending a        week, our top 10 winners are nothing short of spectacular.        ➤

65 stores in New Jersey, New York, and
■ Operates 27 W-Kids Fun Centers, in which
kids 3 to 8 can make arts and crafts, read,
and cook in a toy kitchen while parents shop
■ Makes its own line of kids’ foods such as
fish-shaped pasta and animal crackers
■ Offers cake decorating on Mother’s and
Father’s Day and breakfast with Santa
Claus and the Easter Bunny
■ Participates in many community service
programs, including Toys for Tots and Kids’
Cafes, which feed needy children
■ Houses an ATM at all stores, a pharmacy
and photo-development center at 63 loca-
tions, a coffee and juice bar at 50 stores, a
cafe area with high chairs at 36 locations,
and a dry cleaner at 15 stores
    What makes Wegmans stand out from
other supermarkets? In a word: atmosphere.
The store’s produce section resembles a
                                                  SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE Children enjoy
European market, with up to 700 varieties          Wegmans’ play areas (right) while parents like the
creatively displayed. The bakery features        vast variety of groceries and prepared food (below).
gourmet bread—chocolate cherry and
cheese loaves are a must-try. Chefs,            900-plus store-brand items that are free of
dressed in white jackets and hats, staff the    artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
extensive prepared-foods area, which               Wegmans also stresses food safety. “In
includes a children’s menu. And in 23 loca-     1998, we were the first supermarket chain
tions, a toy train suspended from the ceiling   to put food safety information on packages
gives little ones something fun to watch.       of ground beef,” says company president
    The atmosphere enhances the chain’s         Danny Wegman. The chain now includes
emphasis, which isn’t just on eating—but        cook-to temperatures on all meat labels.
eating well. Employees host Good Food
Tours in which fourth-graders learn how         2 GIANT EAGLE
to make healthy choices. Plus, the chain        213 stores in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
features “Food You Can Feel Good About,”        and West Virginia
                                                ■ Offers the Be a Smart Shopper program,
                                                teaching second- to sixth-graders how to                at each visit for a year; the store donates
                                                make healthy meals and manage money                     the money to local children’s hospitals.
                                                ■ Was the first supermarket to offer shoppers              Kids ages 3 to 9 who come to Giant Eagle
                                                in the northeast an account with UPromise,              often rush to the Eagle’s Nest, a center
                                                a national college savings program                      where they can have fun while learning.
                                                ■ Has diaper-changing tables in the men’s               Available at 84 locations, the Eagle’s Nest
                                                and women’s rooms and offers parking for                is packed with computers, video games,
                                                expectant moms at nearly every location                 blocks, puzzles, and books. Its managers
                                                ■ Hosts kids’ etiquette classes at 84 stores            must have a degree in education, and all
                                                ■ Sponsors a program in which parents buy               employees receive childcare training and
                                                a card for $1 entitling a child to a free cookie        certification in first aid for kids.     ➤

                                                            CHILD AUGUST 2003
   Giant Eagle also emphasizes education          ■ Has a policy that a new register is opened             When children walk into Harris Teeter,
through its Apples for Students program.          when a fourth person enters a checkout               they’re greeted with a balloon, coloring
Each time shoppers use their Giant Eagle              A family-owned retailer for 66 years,            page, and cookie—often by an employee
Advantage Card, they earn points for a            Ukrop’s sponsors more than 30 kid-friendly           dressed as Harry the Dragon, the com-
local school. Schools redeem points for           events annually, such as Christmas parades           pany mascot. Then they can motor around
computers and other educational tools—            and a family jubilee with music, games,              in plastic race cars attached to shopping
more than $21 million in the last 15 years.       and arts and crafts. It recently opened a            carts. The corporate philosophy is simple:
                                                  youth soccer complex next to its store in            “We think kids are special, and when they’re
3 PUBLIX                                          Richmond. What’s more, it commits 10% of             in our store, we want them to be happy,” says
755 stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia,          its annual pre-tax profits to charities, with        company president Fred Morganthall.
South Carolina, and Tennessee                     donations exceeding $10 million.                         Other children’s activities include an
■ Offers kids 12 and under a free bakery              The generosity is part of the retailer’s         annual Safe Kid Promotion, during which
cookie and sponsors coloring contests             tradition. “During World War II, the store           parents can register their child’s fingerprints
■ Launched a series of radio spots that           was closed on Wednesday afternoons so                with the local police department, and Easter
focus on family issues                            staff paid by Ukrop’s could help farmers             Eggstravaganza, an egg hunt attended by
■ Manufactures its own line of ice cream in       who were affected by the labor shortage,”            more than 3,000 3- to 10-year-olds.
fun flavors like Crockadilly Crunch               says company president Bobby Ukrop.
■ Is piloting CyberLane, a computer center                                                             6 HY-VEE
where first- to fifth-graders can learn           5 HARRIS TEETER                                      190 stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota,
through software programs while parents           143 locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina,   Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota
stay in contact with them through radios          South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia              ■ Offers a kids’ menu in the prepared-foods
■ Hires employees to carry a customer’s           ■ Has a policy that customers shouldn’t wait         department and allows parents to request
groceries to the car                              more than a minute from the time they enter          any meal in a child-size portion
   Publix offers several clubs that benefit       a checkout until their first item is scanned         ■ Employs the most full-time dietitians of
parents of young children. The chain’s Baby       ■ Offers its own “Harry the Dragon” line of          our survey; these seven staffers organize
Club doles out coupons, parenting tips,           kids’ foods, including cereals and rice bars         healthy-cooking classes for kids
and a free copy of the American Academy           ■ Operates a Web site with children’s                ■ Features extra-wide aisles
of Pediatrics’ 700-page book Caring for           activities, such as Harry’s Fun Page                 ■ Maintains the “Kid Zone” Web site, which
Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5.        ■ Provides diaper-changing tables in the             provides links to vendors with fun pages
The Preschool Pals Club provides moms             men’s and women’s rooms at all stores                ■ Offers a family health fair at most stores
and dads a newsletter with parenting              ■ Has donated more than $3.5 million to                 Five years ago, a Hy-Vee manager in
advice while kids get birthday cards, an          local schools since 1998                             West Des Moines, IA, hosted a “children’s
activity book, and a game-filled CD-ROM.
                                                  STOP AND SMELL THE VEGGIES Many supermarkets give kids a tour of the produce section.
   In addition, the chain hosts a Baby Fest
every spring and a Kids’ Fest in the fall.
Activities vary by location, but the fests
often include tours of fire trucks, free photo-
identification cards, and face painting.

26 stores in Virginia
■ Conducts Kids Kuisine classes that teach
children how to prepare healthy recipes
such as Popcorn Snacklaces
■ Gives children free rainbow cookies—
the colors vary depending on the season
■ Hires courtesy clerks to bag groceries
and carry them to the car
■ Offers a kids’ menu in the prepared-foods
section; all entrees include string cheese
and a choice of applesauce or pudding

                                                              CHILD AUGUST 2003
night” at his store, inviting kids to come out      7 WHOLE FOODS                                     addition to the Baby Savings Club, in which
for clowns, magicians, jugglers, and face           MARKET                                            parents receive $20 in cash for every $200
painting. It was a hit. He told other Hy-Vee        143 stores in 25 states and Washington, DC        spent on diapers and other baby supplies.
managers about it, and now half the stores          ■ Schedules seasonal children’s activities           Additional features to help parents stay
schedule kids’ nights weekly.                       including holiday cooking classes                 sane while shopping: baggers who carry
   And while all Hy-Vee locations team up           ■ Features kids’ cooking tips and recipes,        groceries to the car and no-candy check-
with local schools to donate time and               such as Bugs on a Log, on its Web site            out lanes. In the words of CEO Michael
money, specifics vary by store. Some loca-          ■ Offers a grab-and-go natural lunch for          Carter: “Parents view grocery shopping as
tions donate sports uniforms and throw a            kids at 20-plus locations; all entrees include    a chore, and we’re here to help them.”
banquet for athletes while others help              fruit, a cookie, crackers, juice, and a prize
spread anti-drug messages by allowing               ■ Requires all of its managers to undergo         9 WILD OATS
kids to color paper grocery bags and using          food safety training                              NATURAL
them to pack a shopper’s order.                     ■ Donates 5% of sales to community non-           MARKETPLACE
                                                    profit organizations on four days each year       74 stores in 25 states
IS THIS FUN OR WHAT? An increasing number
                                                        At Whole Foods Market—the world’s             ■ Features pregnancy yoga classes
of supermarkets offer supervised play areas, and
one chain even gives kids a banana at each visit.   largest retailer of natural and organic prod-     ■ Provides diaper-changing tables in the
                                                    ucts—you won’t run across a hot dog on the        men’s and women’s rooms in all locations
                                                    menu or candy at most checkouts, but the          and private areas for nursing moms in
                                                    company does a terrific job of making kids        about 20% of stores; the company plans to
                                                    happy. At nearly all locations, children can      add more nursing areas
                                                    pick up a balloon at the customer-service         ■ Educates all employees about products
                                                    center, a cookie or piece of fruit at the Kids’   at an annual meeting so they can answer
                                                    Club desk, and stickers, coloring books,          questions from shoppers
                                                    and soy-based crayons at the checkout.            ■ Offers children’s cooking classes
                                                        The retailer also launched Whole Kids,        ■ Coordinates a Prom Dress Drive and
                                                    America’s first organic food line developed       gives holiday toys to disadvantaged kids
                                                    for children. Among the 40 products:                  At Wild Oats, Field Trip Factory Tours
                                                    applesauce, peanut butter, and pudding.           teach students in kindergarten through
                                                    In fact, no products sold at Whole Foods          eighth grade how to be “natural shoppers.”
                                                    have preservatives, artificial ingredients,       During the 60- to 90-minute tour, kids
                                                    flavorings, additives, or trans fats.             sample natural and organic foods while
                                                                                                      learning about nutrition, the environment,
                                                    8 FARMER JACK                                     and the role of exercise. The prize for com-
                                                    105 stores in Michigan and Ohio                   pletion: a Frequent Fruit Card, which is good
                                                    ■ Invites firefighters and police officers to     for a free organic banana at every visit.
                                                    speak to children about safety and provide            All products at Wild Oats are free of
                                                    free emergency and fingerprinting ID kits         antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, artificial
                                                    ■ Plans up to 10 children’s events each           colorings, preservatives, and trans fats.
                                                    year; at the safe trick-or-treat, kids receive    Besides healthy food, Wild Oats offers
                                                    coloring books, light sticks, and snacks          free monthly kids’ activities, such as Earth
                                                    ■ Holds coloring contests in which kids can       Month; the grand-prize winner of a coloring
                                                    earn prizes for their school                      contest received a mountain bike.
                                                    ■ Gives kids 12 and under a bakery cookie
                                                    at each visit if they join a free cookie club     10 (tie) IGA
                                                    ■ Has diaper-changing tables in the men’s         (INDEPENDENT
                                                    and women’s rooms at nearly all locations         GROCERS
                                                    and child-size toilets in 60% of them             ALLIANCE)
                                                       For every dollar spent at Farmer Jack,         1,750 stores in every state except Colorado
                                                    moms earn a point that’s redeemable for           and North Dakota
                                                    spa gift certificates, free housecleaning,        ■ Organizes IGA KidsFest, an annual event
                                                    and other little comforts. This program is in     that features a treasure hunt and prizes ➤

                                                               CHILD AUGUST 2003
                                                                                                throughout the year. “For example, one
                                                                                                store manager turned KidsFest into a mini
                                                                                                carnival with games, elephant rides, and
                                                                                                clowns,” says Dr. Haggai.
                                                                                                    That’s what encouraged Dan Gustafson,
                                                                                                the store manager at the IGA in Belgrade,
                                                                                                MT, to come up with the “Dan the Pizza
                                                                                                Man” concept. Gustafson regularly brings
                                                                                                pizza to first-grade classrooms to introduce
                                                                                                the students to fractions. Says Dr. Haggai:
                                                                                                “It’s unbelievable how much fun the kids
                                                                                                have while learning math.”

                                                                                                10 (tie) RALEY’S
                                                                                                134 stores in California, Nevada, and New Mexico
                                                                                                ■ Has a nutritionist to lead groups of third-
                                                                                                to fifth-graders in sampling healthy fare
                                                                                                ■ Allows community organizations to use
                                                                                                its event rooms at no charge
                                                                                                ■ Offers a hassle-free checkout with high
                                                                                                carts that enable cashiers to remove items
                                                                                                from the cart to scan and bag them
                                                                                                ■ Sets up Play Care areas, chock-full of toys
                                                                                                and art supplies, at 19 locations
                                                                                                ■ Has raised more than $12 million and
                                                                                                donated close to 4 million pounds of canned
                                                                                                and dry foods to food banks since 1986
                                                                                                    Under Raley’s policy—the strictest in our
                                                                                                survey—all store directors and managers
                                                                                                must complete a 25- to 30-hour food safety
START YOUR ENGINES! Little shoppers can motor around in fun carts at many supermarkets.         class and repeat the course every three
                                                                                                years. Since children are one of the most
■ Sponsors an “Explore the Store with IGA”       ■ Collaborates     with youth groups on the    vulnerable groups for food-borne illness,
essay contest in which 6- to 12-year-olds        Hometown Trees Program; more than 6            the company educates families through
and their teachers can win a trip to the U.S.    million have been planted to date              workshops, cooking demonstrations, and
Space Camp in Huntsville, AL                     ■ Has a Hometown Kids Club, which offers       brochures. Raley’s also stocks hand sanitiz-
                                                 field trips, pool parties, and scholarships    ers and plastic bags near the meat section
 Our Panel of Experts                            ■ Invites school and youth groups to use       to help shoppers prevent bacteria from
 The following individuals served on Child’s     its parking lots for fund-raising cookouts;    contaminating other foods.
 advisory board for this story: David Nash,      IGA donates the food                               An emphasis on safety is further seen in
 Ph.D., founder of the American Food Safety          All IGAs are independently owned and       its charitable work. The supermarket has
 Institute and Foundation in Philadelphia;       operated—which gives them the flexibility      launched two Children’s Crisis Nurseries to
 Judith Princz, publisher of Progressive         they need to cater to kids, says CEO           help prevent child abuse and ease stress in
 Grocer magazine in New York City; Jane          Thomas Haggai, Ph.D. Although virtually        at-risk families and has joined the California
 Olszeski Tortola, editor of Independent         all U.S. locations participate in three        Highway Patrol in a car seat giveaway. c
 Retailing at Progressive Grocer magazine in     national events that focus on families—
 New York City; and Elizabeth M. Ward, R.D.,     KidsFest, the store essay contest, and Pet            To learn more about the survey and our
                                                                                                       five runners-up, and to share your
 Reading, MA–based author of Healthy             Adoption—many enhance the suggested                   experiences shopping at these supermarket
 Foods, Healthy Kids. Child’s virtual advisory   agenda or sponsor additional events            chains, go to www.child/web_links.
 board of parents also provided insight.
                                                 MAUREEN SANGIORGIO is a freelance health writer and avid cook based in Macungie, PA.

                                                            CHILD AUGUST 2003

To top