Food for Thought

Houston In-store displays influence 43% of shoppers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, according to PMA Advantage research. In their quest to raise that number, attendees at the Produce Marketing Association's annual Fresh Summit here this month had an opportunity to view the display handiwork of talented merchandisers from throughout the country at the show's Fresh Ideas Marketplace. Merchandising

HOUSTON — In-store displays influence 43% of shoppers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, according to PMA Advantage research. In their quest to raise that number, attendees at the Produce Marketing Association's annual Fresh Summit here this month had an opportunity to view the display handiwork of talented merchandisers from throughout the country at the show's Fresh Ideas Marketplace.

“Merchandising produce is all about the senses — the colors and the smells. A good display makes shoppers want to pick up the product and taste it,” said Bridget Bennett, produce specialist for the Defense Commissary Agency.

Bennett's comment explains, in a nutshell, what effective produce merchandising is supposed to do, and a group of displays — as well as signage ringing the walls of the Fresh Ideas area — offered definitive tips on how retailers can make that happen.

“Color Blocking: Use contrasting colors to create visual excitement in displays” and “Don't hide them: Group exotics together to make a splash” were just a couple of the ideas brought to life in the display area. For instance, a multi-level cluster of orchard crates in the center of the floor featured several varieties of citrus, with lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges each separated into their own area. Together, they presented a striking example of color blocking.

Nearby, a six-foot cart featured an eye-catching array of exotic fruits and vegetables, all grouped together to grab the attention of anyone passing by.

Other creative merchandising ideas included a seasonal display of pumpkins, decorative gourds and doll-size scarecrows, as well as a cloth covered wagon driven by a life-sized scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head.

An adjacent floral area included large seasonal plant and flower displays, as well as a display of merchandise clustered to demonstrate how retailers could boost sales to teens and parents by highlighting local high school football teams.

The goal of the display area is to give show attendees ideas for building excitement in a retail environment, whether they're retailers themselves or suppliers looking for suggestions to offer their customers, noted Becky Roberts, director of volunteer leader relations with PMA.

Participating retailers, who manned the Fresh Ideas area throughout the show, said that the two days spent putting the displays together also helped them learn a few things themselves.

“It's a challenge, because you're working with people that you don't work with every day, and you may have different [merchandising] philosophies, but there's always a common ground,” said Kip Martin, produce and floral supervisor for Raley's, West Sacramento, Calif. “It's about sharing best practices as a group — as merchandisers — and working with the product.”

The produce merchandising team, in alphabetical order by company, included Gary Dziekan and Roger Gouin from Big Y; Bridget Bennett from the Defense Commissary Agency; Dean Allred and Gaines Chamberlain from Food Lion; Rita Peters from Hy-Vee; Frank Barnett and Randy DeBord from Meijer; Kip Martin from Raley's; and Bill Brauchle and Charlie Tombasco from Wegmans. Floral displays were arranged by Lauree Lincoln from Big Y and Cindy Hanauer from Winn-Dixie.