AUCHAN UNIT PLAYS TOP BANANA WITH BIGGEST DISPLAY

HOUSTON -- A unit of Auchan Hypermarket, here, has set a new record for the "World's Largest Banana Display" as part of a promotion developed together with Chiquita Banana North America, Cincinnati.This event marked the first time Auchan and Chiquita were involved in such a promotion, which featured 1,200 boxes in the in-store display.The spectacle, which was set from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17, broke the

HOUSTON -- A unit of Auchan Hypermarket, here, has set a new record for the "World's Largest Banana Display" as part of a promotion developed together with Chiquita Banana North America, Cincinnati.

This event marked the first time Auchan and Chiquita were involved in such a promotion, which featured 1,200 boxes in the in-store display.

The spectacle, which was set from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17, broke the prior record display constructed by San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery's Co.'s Rockport, Texas, unit in April. The unit had worked with Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif., to construct a 1,056-box display [see "H-E-B Builds Attention With Powerful Lot of Bananas," SN, April 5, 1999].

Auchan kicked off its promotion with a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle, as well as an ad in its weekly flier. An appearance by Miss Chiquita Banana on the first day of the event was covered by local media and live radio broadcasts.

To peak consumer interest -- and to move out all those bananas -- a special promotional price was used: 5 pounds for $1 instead of the regular price of 3 pounds for 99 cents.

According to Mark Peterson, produce director for Auchan, it was actually the second day that was busiest, with the entire store experiencing a significant jump in sales. He added that the entire stock of bananas sold out in less than four days.

To display the bananas, a massive rectangular structure measuring 16 x 42 x 8 feet was constructed, consisting of 48,000 pounds of bananas, or 120,000 individual bananas.

In order to keep the fruit fresh for the duration of the promotion, the display contained three different types of bananas, all ripened and supplied by Schoenmann Produce Co., also based here.

Boxes of yellow bananas were stacked around the perimeter of the display so customers could purchase the ripened varieties first. Behind those were boxes of yellow/green bananas and then, inside the middle, were boxes of green bananas. He said the idea was to provide customers with ripe bananas each day of he promotion.

Since heat causes the starch in bananas to turn into sugar, hastening the ripening process, heat-related shrink was avoided by the creation of a wind tunnel that kept the bananas cool. The box pyramid contained empty spaces in the middle, where fans were used to keep the bananas from ripening too fast. Customers had no idea the fans were there since they were hidden by the mound of boxes.

Hanging over the display was a banner that proclaimed it to be the "World's Largest Banana Display," accompanied by three inflated Chiquita bananas that also hung from the rafters.

To each side of the display were freestanding Chiquita Banana displays that tied in the banana company's "Miss Chiquita's Summer Fun Adventure. The promotion offered participating consumers the chance of winning a "Choice of 100 Trips."

To enter, customers filled out the entry forms provided on the display, and were required to answer a set of questions, the answers to which could be found on the display itself. Winners of the contest will be announced in late September.

According to Lance Barnett, business development manager for Chiquita, Auchan was eager to build the record-setting display after reading about H-E-B's effort. He said the promotion gave Auchan the opportunity to not only set a record, but to sell more bananas during a slower selling time of the year.

"It gives the retailer an opportunity to spotlight bananas when they're not typically spotlighted," said Barnett.