ALBERTSON'S IS SEEDING HALF ITS UNITS WITH ORGANICS

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertson's here has introduced organic fresh fruits and vegetables to about half of its 850-plus stores.Albertson's launched the program with up to 12 organic fresh produce items, and may increase the number of organic products carried. It may also expand the program to other stores."Our customers have expressed a desire for organic items," said Jenny Encohson, Albertson's media relations

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertson's here has introduced organic fresh fruits and vegetables to about half of its 850-plus stores.

Albertson's launched the program with up to 12 organic fresh produce items, and may increase the number of organic products carried. It may also expand the program to other stores.

"Our customers have expressed a desire for organic items," said Jenny Encohson, Albertson's media relations coordinator.

"We are responding to their requests by offering organically grown produce and organic grocery items," Encohson added.

Albertson's picked higher-volume stores to introduce the organic program, and will await consumer response before rolling the program out chainwide, according to a store source.

Signs in the produce department at participating stores indicate on a daily basis which organically grown items are available. Organic produce is displayed together with conventional produce of the same variety. The organic produce items are identified with stickers, tie-twists or wrappers bearing organic information.

The 12 organics carried currently are: gala apples; golden and red delicious apples; broccoli; carrots; cauliflower; celery; green leaf, red leaf and romaine lettuce; Bartlett pears; and potatoes.

A produce manager at a participating store in Albertson's northern California division said the sales have been very good so far, with strong customer acceptance, but that the store sometimes did not receive shipments of items that were promised.

On that particular day, for example, the source said the store was stocked with approximately half the items.

Produce managers at two stores in Albertson's southern California division said they sold no organic produce.

In the past, Albertson's had tried merchandising organic produce in some stores, but backed away from the programs due to price, product inconsistency and erratic consumer interest, said an official at Albertson's.