CENTENNIAL, Colo. – In the wake of 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. Results from the initial pilot are being used to encourage other retailers to display the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Mark on packages of beef. As a result, retailers are now seeing the program’s impact firsthand and the benefits of promoting beef's role in a healthy diet.

Currently, hundreds of stores throughout the US 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 participating retailers include California-based Save Mart Supermarkets and Texas-based H-E-B.

Save Mart Supermarkets 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. It was an early adopter of the American Heart Association Food Certification Program for beef. In 2012, it rolled out four certified-beef items -- Top Sirloin Petite Roast, Top Sirloin Filet, Top Sirloin Kabob and Top Sirloin Strips -- and in February, it 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 conducted approximately 120 cooking and tasting demos of the Top Sirloin Stir Fry in their top 50 highest beef-volume stores. Month-long featuring of these cuts, special pricing, in-store radio, on-pack labels and point-of-sale also supported the promotion.
As a result, the certified Top Sirloin Stir Fry item featured in the demos experienced a 19 percent sales increase during the promotional period. In addition, overall sales for American Heart Association-certified cuts continued to grow another 2 percent the month of post-promotion, with Top Sirloin Stir Fry sales seeing an additional 4 percent growth.

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 runs now through July 9 and again July 24-Aug. 6 and includes weekly featuring of the Top Sirloin Filet and a customer offer to receive a free salad with their purchase of two packages of the AHA-certified Top Sirloin Filet.

Demonstrations that will feature the filets prepared with the package recipe rub, served over the free salad mix with a light dressing will also be conducted by the stores. 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, 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.