Nobody wants to buy the soggy lettuce. With sales of many produce items dependent on impulse purchases, it’s no secret that customers are more likely to grab fresh, appealing fruits and vegetables over tired, wilted ones. Creative merchandising and proper care in the produce department can keep products in good condition and boost sales.
While retailers can’t always control the supply chain and are sometimes limited by storage facilities, keeping a close eye on appropriate temperatures for each product can make a big difference in shelf life and appearance. Several of the produce boards SN spoke to emphasized the value of keeping their specific product at proper temperatures.
A table of strawberries in the front of the store is a familiar sight, but California Strawberry Commission Vice President of Marketing Christine Christian said the most important thing to know about strawberries is they should be kept cold — from 32 to 34 degrees — through the supply chain.
Christian said there are challenges to keeping strawberries cold, such as getting them from the trailer to the warehouse quickly, or temperatures restraints in the store backroom.
Apples aren’t nearly as perishable as berries, but they benefit from the cold treatment, too. In addition to rotating apples and checking displays, Chris Scott, international marketing specialist at the Washington Apple Commission, said, “If you can, keep your product cold.”
“Every time it gets room temperature, your [product] life is … going by a lot more quicker than if it was cool, about 34 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Watermelons are more flexible with temperature, yet need consistency. Gordon Hunt, director of marketing and communications, National Watermelon Promotion Board urged caution with watermelons that were shipped chilled.
“If [the retailers] lets it warm up to room temperature or outside temperature ... then don’t re-refrigerate it. It’s perfectly all right at room temperature, but you want to make sure once it’s out of that cold chain, leave it out,” he said.
Hunt mentioned that as staff turns over in the produce department, new associates need to be reminded of proper handling. The Watermelon Promotion Board offers a best practices poster on its website www.watermelon.org that retailers can download and post to keep employees up-to-date.
Clever or helpful merchandising can also draw in customers, such as signs indicating proper product care.
“We still found that people are storing their tomatoes in their refrigerator,” said Samantha Winters, director of education and promotion at the Florida Tomato Committee.
“So a tip on the display for ‘Do Not Refrigerate’ goes a long way in maintaining product quality and customer satisfaction and repeat purchases,” she said, referring to a tip in the committee’s 2012 retail brochure that includes consumer research, merchandising and promotional best practices. This report is available free to retailers who contact Winters at [email protected]
Resourcefully cross-merchandised produce items can give customers meal ideas.
“I do love the creativity expressed by some of the produce managers in merchandising Florida tomatoes with other fresh produce items like avocados for a salsa, or bacon, lettuce and bread for a BLT,” Winters said.
Eduardo Serena, marketing director for The Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán, emphasized the importance of offering ripe avocados.
“Ripe programs increase sales by two to one and in some cases as high as four to one,” he said, noting customers like avocados with good taste that are ready to eat.
Separate displays for ripe and firm avocados, with ‘ripe’ stickers or signs help customers choose quickly and stops them from harming avocados by squeezing them, according to Serena.
As part of the watermelon board’s emails to retailers about the watermelon season, weather and volumes, the board gives retailers promotion ideas. For instance, when a shortage drives up pumpkin prices, Hunt will send out a photo of a carved watermelon so retailers can include the image in the more affordable watermelon displays near the pumpkin displays.
“And people understand immediately when they see the picture of the carved watermelon Jack-o-Lantern.”