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Promoting organics boosts organic sales at Ball's

Balls' Food Stores has been able to increase sales of organic produce by 30% over the last year by promoting it more  —featuring six to 10 organic items in its ads each week and between four and eight in-store specials — at price points close to conventional products, Mike Beal, COO for the Kansas City, Mo.-based chain, said Monday at the annual convention of National Grocers Association in Las Vegas.

In remarks during a panel about "freaky fresh," Beal said the chain's efforts to increase organic sales were part of its ongoing "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" campaign and included extensive sampling in stores.  The organic selection now includes more than 175 items, he noted.


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Ball's executives meet with local growers every December to discuss what it's looking for, then offers to partner with them by providing seeds and fertilizer, Beal said.  When the crops come in, the stores sell them outside the stores and invite the growers to meet customers, he added.

Nick Longo, VP, fresh merchandising, for Longo's Supermarkets, Toronto, said his company also works closely with local growers, taking its buyers and store personnel to the growing areas to establish relationships with them and to learn ways they in turn can educate customers.

Longo's also holds summer produce sales each weekend, he said; it also samples one new product every Saturday and Sunday as part of its "Why Not Try?" program, offering three key attributes for each item and including those attributes in its print advertising, he said.

Paul Hamilton, field merchandiser for produce and floral for Kings Food Markets, Parsippany, N.J., said his company features "top of the catch" seafood — the last fish caught on any given day, which is in the stores within less than 48 hours. "We pay a premium for that fish, but we feel it enhances our fresh image," Hamilton said.

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In produce Kings has introduced a new 24/7 program that offers produce the day after it's been harvested. "Timeliness is the key to building a strong fresh image," he explained.

Panelist Roger Drake, owner of Drake's Foodland IGA, Torrinsville, South Australia, said creating "a theater of fresh provides stores with a distinctive atmosphere, giving customers the feeling that everything is green."

Introducing the panelists, moderator Harold Lloyd, president of Harold Lloyd Presents, offered several ideas of his own to boost fresh sales, including a suggestion that retailers let every cashier spend 10 minutes before his shift culling produce from displays — "using a more objective eye than the produce manager might to pick out items they wouldn't purchase."

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