ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — Riesbeck's Food Markets is looking to grow its fresh herb sales.
The independent is advertising a fresh herb each week in its ad circulars, and making handout literature about the featured herb available at the point of sale.
“The supplier has a lot of these materials that tell the herb's history, how it's grown, how to use it, how you store it properly, and then there are some recipes, too,” said Paul Thompson, produce program director at the 15-unit, family-owned company.
At the time SN spoke to Thompson, rosemary was the featured herb. Since it goes well with pork, the herb was displayed in small packages on clip strips over the pork section of the meat case as well as with other herbs in the value-added section of the produce department.
With Thanksgiving on the horizon, fresh sage will soon be featured, highlighted in the produce department and in a secondary display near fresh poultry.
While Riesbeck's has offered a large variety of fresh herbs — 13 to 21 varieties — the company recently decided to call attention to them in various ways.
“We've had fresh herbs available for a long time, but now we're trying to grow the business,” Thompson told SN.
“We want to make fresh herbs a destination. First of all, they're incremental sales, and second, the customer who buys fresh herbs does a good amount of cooking at home and will buy other ingredients while they're in the store. We want that customer.”
Last summer, Riesbeck's invited Vern Meyer — owner of The Herbal Garden, one of the major suppliers of fresh herbs in the Eastern U.S. — to conduct mini cooking classes in two of its stores. The aim was to show mainstream shoppers how easy it is to cook with fresh herbs.
“The cooking lessons created a lot of excitement at those two locations. Vern was great. He went out into the group of people and talked to them about the herbs he was using, and gave them recipes,” Thompson said.
“It was like looking at The Food Network, only it was live, in person. It was fun. We'll have Vern back next spring, I hope, probably at two other locations.”
Seating areas were set up in the produce department for the sessions.
Thompson explained that the idea to do this grew out of a session that Meyer had conducted earlier for Riesbeck's produce managers.
“After talking with a number of people, we thought it would be a great opportunity to have the owner of The [Herbal] Garden do the same thing for our customers that he did for us,” Thompson said.
“We put together recipe cards with the dishes he was making — all just three- or four-step recipes.”
The dishes Meyer cooked included catfish with chives, roasted potatoes with rosemary and chicken breast with rosemary.
Thompson said customers raved about the potato recipe, in particular, and sauteed mushrooms with fresh thyme.