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Save-On-Foods points program helps shoppers restock after storm

Offers 5000 points for every $100 spent to help replace spoiled food

Jamie Nelson says people are the heart and soul of the retail food business.

So when last Saturday's storm left record numbers of homes without electricity across B.C.'s Lower Mainland area, Nelson, senior-vice president of retail operations for Overwaitea Food Group, said his company was eager to help people restock food lost in fridges and freezers.

"We met first thing Monday morning and (marketing director) Jillian Bryant suggested a way using social media," Nelson told Canadian Grocer.

A day later, the company launched a special three-day rewards points offer on the Facebook page of its flagship banner, Save-On-Foods.

Under the offer, customers who spend $100 at any Save-On-Foods outlet until Wednesday would earn an extra 5,000 points under its More Rewards loyalty program.

Points could be redeemed for travel, merchandise and grocery staples like ground beef, milk, bread, eggs, and butter.

READ: President’s Choice and Save-On-Foods among brands Canadians trust most

The coupon-based Internet offer, which will dovetail with another points offer scheduled for Friday, is good for all 116 Save-on-Foods stores in B.C. and Alberta.

It is targeted, however, at the 40 stores that serve the storm-struck Lower Mainland area, which includes Vancouver.

According to Nelson, some two dozen of those stores experienced power outages over the weekend.

"Most were only affected a couple of hours, but for some it lasted two days," he said. "By Monday three stores were still down."

A 35-year food industry veteran who is responsible for all operational deliverables for the Overwaitea Food Group, Canada’s largest Western-based grocery retailer, Nelson said stores lost little food.

"But we had various challenges to bring them back up to speed," he added.

READ: Save-on-Foods wins big in B.C.

One of those challenges was resupplying stores that were overwhelmed by concerned customers, especially in downtown Vancouver.

"Our store at 7th and Camby was pretty much cleaned out," noted Nelson. "It seemed like everybody in Vancouver was going there to shop."

The fast-developed Facebook rewards offer, he added, reflects both the communicative power of social media and his company's long experience with helping people in need.

"It's sure unlike the old days when you would have had to run an ad or a flyer," said Nelson.

OFG, he added, also regularly turns to its 2.5 million rewards program members on behalf of aid agencies that help victims of natural disasters.

The most recent example was an offer to match donated points with dollars for the Canadian Red Cross to help with relief efforts related to the fires that raged across Western Canada this summer.

OFG is also working this week with the Surrey Food Bank, which was still without power as of Wed.

The food bank, which receives no government funding, assists some 13,000 people in the Vancouver suburb every month.

"We're very conscientious about our role in the communities we serve," said Nelson. "People are what this business is all about."

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