Harold Levinson Associates: Distributing Good Health and Better Margins

Harold Levinson Associates (HLA), a convenience store distributor serving 7,000 independent retailers in the Northeast, was in the early stages of creating its own brand of snack foods when the company first entered negotiations with PHA to commit to increasing healthier food and beverage options.

“We wanted to come up with our own line,” said Marty Glick, HLA’s Vice President of Sales. “As we were negotiating with PHA, we thought, ‘Let’s do this in conjunction with that.’” The result? Half of HLA’s Uncle Ed’s Pantry Mixes – the company’s brand of assorted trail mixes – meet PHA guidelines for healthier snacks. By 2020, at least 70 percent of the snack bags will also meet PHA’s guidelines. What’s more, the Uncle Ed’s brand is featured in a healthier snack end cap that outsells – by far – all seven of the company’s other end-of-the-aisle featured snack displays.

Consumers are choosing more fruit and nut bars than they are candies and chips, when those better-for-you snacks are prominently featured and promoted.

Since expanding its PHA-approved product offerings at the end of 2017, HLA has placed more than 350 of its Healthy Snack multi-vendor endcap rack displays—a 60 percent increase from the year before, said Glick. Sales of Uncle Ed’s snack bags—designed to fit in car cup holders – rose 44 percent from 2017 to 2018.

As part of its partnership with PHA, the distributor also launched a fresh-cut fruit and vegetable offering, which has doubled in sales over the past year. In the past year, HLA-affiliated retail store customers purchased 55,728 bananas, 5,664 apples, 3,348 servings of pineapple, 4,224 servings of mixed berries, and 4,248 servings of vegetables.

In promoting healthier options to its stores, HLA encourages them to feature the healthier foods up front, placing more traditional convenience store fare, such as chips, in the back.

“A c-store (convenience store) shopper is out the door in 45 seconds,” said Glick. “They’re there to buy, not to shop. My sales consultants tell our stores that having a front endcap stocked with chips makes no sense. If you want chips, you’ll go find them in the store. Make them walk for that and they’ll buy something else along the way. When you put our healthier products in front of the store you double your profit margin. The consumer otherwise won’t know that the healthy options are there. The more you walk, the more you spend.”

It’s not just what’s being sold that’s changing, said Glick. It’s who’s buying.

“Customers tell our sales people that they have more women and moms with kids shopping in their stores, due to a broader selection of healthier-for-you snack items,” he said. “And moms spend more money than dads do.”

Our Work In Motion