Produce departments have been trading in ho-hum marketing ideas for interactive strategies that reach shoppers in unexpected ways.
Instead of keeping promotion of its local items in-store, Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, NY, uses incoming produce as way to prompt visits. The retailer's Twitter handle, @WegmansLocal, is specially focused on announcing local items arriving at each store. The steady trickle of fresh fruits and vegetables keep Wegmans' produce on followers' minds and may inspire customers to stop by the store specially for the tasty sounding items.
WegmansLocal tweets typically start with the store location and list specific produce coming into the store. The tweets are sometimes accompanied with grower details; for instance, earlier this month, WegmansLocal wrote, “#johnsoncity will receive fresh picked green peppers, plum & field grown tomatoes, organic tomatoes, and corn from Reeve's Farm today!”
In addition to calling attention to incoming products, Wegmans uses the account to answer customer questions. Wegmans recently explained to its Twitter followers that canned pumpkin hasn't been stocked yet because of a crop shortage and that an E. coli outbreak in Oregon caused the retailer to switch its strawberry sourcing to California.
PCC Natural Markets, Seattle, has also been engaging its shoppers in a dialogue about products. Earlier this month, PCC held the event “Taste PCC: A Local Food Celebration” at its Issaquah, Wash. store. At this event, shoppers had the opportunity to talk to local growers and ranchers and sample their products, such as fresh green peppers, carrots, cucumbers, pears and apples.
“An event like our ‘Taste PCC: A Local Food Celebration’ makes shoppers more aware of the importance of local agriculture and knowing from where our food comes,” said Sara Wash, community Relations Manager at PCC.
“Kids, especially, are encouraged to try new fruits and vegetables and realize that nearby family farms make possible what their own families eat at home.”
Parts of PCC's playful event celebrated fresh produce. The “Deli Throw Down” was an Iron Chef inspired event, in which PCC deli cooks were charged with creating a “new PCC deli classic” in 45 minutes. While the chefs could bring in favorite ingredients, the secret ingredient, fennel, was not revealed until the day of the competition.
The chefs created and demonstrated produce-heavy recipes such as a fennel salad with savoy cabbage, Bartlett pears, red peppers, green onions and carrots.
“Any opportunity to bring growers and shoppers together is good for sales,” said Wash. “Adding the fun of a live cooking competition featuring new ways to enjoy local produce inspires shoppers to try fruits and vegetables they might not typically buy.”
In addition to appealing to customers' sense of fun, NetCost Market has been trying to appeal to their sense of smell. A Brooklyn NetCost Market recently partnered with the scent marketing company ScentAir, Charlotte, N.C., to push scents through different store departments. Strawberry and grapefruit smells in the fruit section resulted in a 7% to 8% boost in fruit sales, Angelina Khristichenko, the NetCost merchandise coordinator, told the New York Post this summer.
While ScentAir anecdotally hears about sales boosts from their fragrance marketing, ScentAir Marketing Communications Manager Blake Rice told SN that the company's approach focuses more on shopper experience and creating a subconsciously pleasant shopping environment.
“The idea is when you're in that grocery store and you're walking down the aisle you smell bread, you don't go, ‘Gosh, I smell bread,’” Rice said.
ScentAir also did some trial work with Delhaize America's Bloom stores, experimenting with a more ambient smell, similar to ones that ScentAir typically uses with hospitality and retail clients.
While ScentAir's work with Bloom didn't continue past the trial stage, ScentAir later created a scent for Bloom's meat department last year.
Instead of creating ambient smells, Rice said the approach with NetCost's scent marketing was what ScentAir calls a thematic or billboard approach that advertises nearby products. Each scent cartridge lasts 300 hours, and ScentAir sends out a new one each month, leaving room for retailers to rotate fragrances.