ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kowalski's Markets here has boosted sales of fresh-cut fruit with a new line of premium combos sporting names like Orange Crush, Berry Bliss and Caribbean Dream.
The combinations are processed by a local supplier in St. Paul who packages the combos in 16-ounce clamshell packages. They create a colorful sight when stacked in display cases. The packages feature a gold and black, ribbon-like band that carries the Kowalski's name.
“These packages present very well,” said Tim Fortier, produce manager at the nine-unit independent's flagship Woodbury store.
In addition to the combinations, the supplier packages single-item cut fruit in 8-ounce clamshell containers for Kowalski's.
“We started this new program around Thanksgiving and the products have done very well. In fact, we've doubled our sales of cut fruit since then,” Fortier told SN.
At Woodbury, Fortier initially tried out several of the 75 items the supplier offers, but then cut back to just the ones that sold best.
“We scaled back to what customers were buying regularly, about 40 different combos. Customers like that they have so many to choose from.”
One of his best sellers at Woodbury is Orange Crush, which features cut oranges, pineapple and red grapes. Another is Berry Bliss, bringing together strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
Others that do very well, Fortier said, are Cocoa Berry, combining sliced strawberries and chunks of fresh coconut; Caribbean Dream, with mango, papaya and strawberries; Oh, My Darlin', with clementines and sliced kiwis; and Winter Bliss, with melon, strawberries, pineapple and pomegranate seeds.
Depending on store size and available display space, the selection can differ in each Kowalski's location.
“We rotate the most popular ones in and out, but stores don't have to stick strictly to the rotation pattern. If something is selling like crazy, they can keep that item” instead of rotating another variety in to replace it, Fortier said. He added that working with a local processor helps.
“We can call our order in at 10 in the morning and it'll be processed that day and on our shelves the next morning.”
Fortier said the supplier is careful to match up fruits that taste good together, and look good together.
The items, which present a sharp, fresh look, are displayed near the front of the store at most of Kowalski's locations, most often in upright refrigerated cases right in the customer's line of vision.
“One of our newest combos is Spring Fling with blueberries, cantaloupe and grapes, and the supplier has promised us some exciting new ones for summer,” Fortier said.