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Upstate New York-based Price Chopper has announced that it will be giving away free refrigerator thermometers to customers who spend a minimum of $10 at any of its stores’ meat or deli departments, and will also hand out information cards instructing people on how to insure that food brought home is kept safe.

The program is keyed to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Project Chill program that has encouraged the use of such thermometers to keep appliances at the proper temperature to insure the integrity of the products. (Between 33 and 40 degrees, in case you didn’t know.)

Research has shown that only 30 percent of consumers know they should use a refrigerator thermometer and only 20 percent say they use one.
KC's View:
Good idea.

As a matter of fact, we suggested in this space earlier this year that supermarket chains with loyalty marketing programs ought to define their top 10 or 15 percent shoppers and give them the refrigerator thermometers with instructions and a thank you note. The thermometers only cost a few bucks, and the implications for long-term consumer relationships could be enormous.

We’re flattered that at least one chain took our advice. Bi-Lo, which, according to Eric Verhoeven, its director of card marketing and research, “mailed 65,000 little boxed thermometers to our best customers, with some advise on food safety and storage, as part of our Best Customer Appreciation program.”

Verhoeven said that the “reactions have been overwhelming: hundreds of thank you notes, e-mails and phone calls…from happy recipients, showing that a couple of dollars investment in your best shoppers goes a long way.”

(We’re a little overwhelmed that somebody actually listened to us.)

Both the Price Chopper and Bi-Lo approaches, while different, make an awful lot of sense.

We encourage retailers to look for these kinds of opportunities as ways of demonstrating that they offer their shoppers a differential advantage.