WHOLESALER'S BINGO GAME PROMOTES PRODUCE SALES

MOUNT PLEASANT, Utah -- Terrel's Thriftway hit the jackpot with a Five A Day bingo game that pushed its produce sales up by 10%, officials told SN.The game, designed by Toy Box Creations and endorsed by the Five A Day for Better Health Foundation, Newark, Del., was originally aimed at children, though adults comprised the majority of players, said Randy Stephens, produce manager for the single-unit

MOUNT PLEASANT, Utah -- Terrel's Thriftway hit the jackpot with a Five A Day bingo game that pushed its produce sales up by 10%, officials told SN.

The game, designed by Toy Box Creations and endorsed by the Five A Day for Better Health Foundation, Newark, Del., was originally aimed at children, though adults comprised the majority of players, said Randy Stephens, produce manager for the single-unit independent. He added that the promotion was a winner all the way around.

"The toy company supplied all the point-of-purchase materials, a sign for the front window and holders at each checkstand for the game cards. And then there was a big colorful display with stuffed, plush 'fruit hero' toys in it. For example, there was an apple superman," Stephens said.

The stuffed toys, also made by the Temecula, Calif.-based toy company, were the prizes for winning the contest. Just as in traditional bingo, participating consumers matched game pieces with corresponding squares on the game card; the aim was to get people to buy a variety of produce items. If a customer bought one type of produce, he got one game piece sticker at checkout. Two different types got him two stickers and so on.

"I had one woman tell me she needed to think of another type of produce to buy because she was playing the game and she wanted to get more game pieces. I suggested jicama, which she had never tried before. I told her how I use it -- I cut it into sticks and serve it with dip or dice it up in a salad. She bought it and liked it. Now she buys it all the time," Stephens said.

In addition to getting customers to try different produce items, the game brought them back into the store more often.

"They'd come in every day and pick up a few pieces of fresh produce, rather than buying enough to try to get through the week. That way they got more game pieces," Stephens explained. The plush toys were the attraction, he said.

"They're very appealing plush toys, especially the strawberry hero. It was the most popular. Next time, I'll triple order that particular one. Everybody wanted it. They could buy the toys for $3.99 apiece, but most played the game to get them."

A blackout -- filling every square on the game card -- got the customer one of each of the toys, an activity book, a tote bag and a $30 gift certificate to be used anywhere in the store. Terrel's had seven blackout winners.

"We have quite a lot of elderly in the population here and a lot of them were doing this for their grandchildren. It was parents and grandparents playing the game to get the kids a toy. I'd do this again in a minute because it really worked well for us," Stephens said.

Terrel's Thriftway obtained the game and related materials from wholesale cooperative Associated Foods, Salt Lake City, of which it is a member. The retailer was the first of the co-op's member stores to use the bingo promotion, the newest component of the wholesaler's ongoing Kids Club, which is available to all its retail members.