ORGANIC DRIVE IS RAKING IN BUMPER SALES AT GENUARDI'S

NEW ORLEANS -- An organic-produce program, supported by branded signage and steady advertising, has generated an 88% increase in dollar sales of organic produce over the past 12 months for Genuardi's Family Markets.Mike Genuardi, co-owner of the Norristown, Pa.-based chain, profiled the program's success during the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association's 1998 Convention, Exposition & International

NEW ORLEANS -- An organic-produce program, supported by branded signage and steady advertising, has generated an 88% increase in dollar sales of organic produce over the past 12 months for Genuardi's Family Markets.

Mike Genuardi, co-owner of the Norristown, Pa.-based chain, profiled the program's success during the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association's 1998 Convention, Exposition & International Trade Conference here Oct. 16 to 20.

According to Genuardi, the 30-store company launched its "Go Organic" program in the fall of last year and promptly noted the dollar increase, along with comparable improvements in organic-produce unit sales and total gross-margin dollars.

"When someone said the words 'Go Organic' at a meeting, it was a lot like that moment when Mark McGwire's dad saw his son hit a home run for the first time," said Mike Genuardi. "He knew he had something there, and so did we."

Genuardi's is one of the tonier supermarkets in the Philadelphia area, catering to a quality-oriented, well-educated and reasonably affluent market. But at the PMA workshop on selling organic produce, Genuardi said he believes that a similar program could succeed with almost any consumer demographic.

The "Go Organic" campaign is promoted in every department -- not just produce -- through consistently labeled signage that includes ceiling dangles, stand-up cardboard signs, shelf tags and slot wall signs. All employees wear "Go Organic" buttons as well.

The supermarket announced its program to the public in October 1997 by devoting existing ad space to promote the various departments, followed with weekly ads and quarterly reminders to look for the "Go Organic" symbol.

The logo and signage were created and produced in-house. "You could probably do the same for about $100 per store," Genuardi said. He also recommended contacting the Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, Mass., which has an off-the-shelf marketing campaign available.

Genuardi's biggest sales driver is the practice of temporarily discontinuing certain conventional produce items when the comparable organic product's market price is the same or lower. Consumers, as long as they are not penalized on price, don't seem to mind, and are more likely to pick up other organic items on subsequent trips to the store, the supermarket's research indicates.

"It is very easy to go organic," Genuardi said. "If you address organic products with consistent signage and effective displays, price product as competitively as you can, and stay behind the program with advertising, you can succees.