How to feed the health-conscious tailgater

From dips to fruit skewers, there's an opportunity for grocers to merchandise and highlight healthy party fare
Shutterstock/Lorelyn Medina

It’s tailgating season, that rite of fall signaling the kickoff of football parties and major holidays running straight through the year’s end.

Tailgating usually brings to mind wings, ribs, burgers and plenty of beer, but odds are good that some fans will prefer at least a few healthier offerings alongside the usual spread.

The evidence? More than one-third (36%) of consumers say they follow a specific eating plan, with carb-trimmed and gluten-free diets among the most popular options, according to the 2018 Food & Health Survey, conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, which also found that three-quarters (77%) of consumers are trying to limit sugars, and 69% prefer food choices with no artificial ingredients.


It’s a snap for retailers to highlight healthier grilling and football party fare throughout the store, especially time-saving ready-made and easy-to-assemble options.

In the produce department, fruit and vegetable trays are always popular, as is pre-cut produce for shoppers who prefer to customize their own trays. Also offer tips and quick recipes for less-typical options such as sweet potatoes, cauliflower steaks and seasonal fruit kabobs for the tailgate grill.

As for the requisite chips and dips, add interest and nutrition by promoting ready-made ethnic dips like hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, guacamole and salsa. They’re ready to pair with the multitude of vegetable and whole grain chips available today.

Lighter grill-worthy mains include lean meat and vegetable kabobs, marinated chicken breasts, lean burgers and a whole slew of plant-based burgers, sausages and hot dogs.

And, remember those 77% of consumers who are trying to limit sugars? Sixty per cent of them do so by drinking water, so make sure to feature a display of plain and no-sugar flavoured waters for them.


Research suggests digital channels are the ticket to communicate healthier football-focused recipes, food ideas and tips. Many grilling enthusiasts look for inspiration from various online sources such as recipe websites (45%), cooking show (39%), grilling (27%) and food company (24%) websites, according to a 2017 survey on grilling conducted by Acosta. Further, more than one-third (36%) of respondents tap into social media for ideas.

Team up with your retail dietitians to devise the best communications strategy for your stores. You could work together to develop or curate a collection of lighter fall grilling and party recipes to post on your website, and then parlay that content into multiple communications opportunities using traditional and social media. Dietitians can appear in TV news spots to give healthy tailgating tips and demonstrate recipes, post links to the content on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, and feature it in their blogs.

Also, when it comes to promoting healthier fall party options, don’t underestimate the power of good old-fashioned cross-merchandising: Display avocados near the whole grain tortilla chips, light ranch dressing near the pre-cut veggies, and whole grain buns near the veggie burgers.

Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, specializes in nutrition communications for consumer and health professional audiences.

This article appeared at Progressive

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