A significant shift in organic produce merchandising, driven by consumer health and wellness resolutions, takes place heading into the New Year. Holiday displays filled with traditional and cultural fruits and vegetables like cranberries, sweet potatoes, sage and nuts are replaced by more vibrant and health related item, including organic citrus, berries and juicing ingredients.
Produce departments begin to take on a healthier look and edge, supported by promotions, sale pricing, and health inspired displays and lots of samples. Brian Dey, senior merchandiser and natural food coordinator for Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata, PA, offered OPN insight on the merchandising techniques Four Seasons, and their retailers along the Eastern seaboard, have adopted to successfully increase organic fresh produce sales during this merchandising shift.
Dey points out “retailers put a significant emphasis on the produce department and organics this time of year, as eating organic food is no longer a trend of status, but part of general healthy eating habits.”
Chris Miller, director of produce for Mom’s Organic Market, a Mid Atlantic retailer with 18 locations and 100 percent organic produce departments, notes a significant increase in consumers who experiment with healthier items. “In these months, we experience more people cooking with fresh produce and we focus our merchandising and promotions around popular juicing and salad items, while also making sure to have a smattering of healthy snacking fruit highlighted when quality and price meet up,” he said.
Organic citrus, for example, is in full swing throughout January and February, offering a bright pop of flavor and supporting health-conscious goals. Savvy retailers like Mom’s Organic Market merchandise citrus in a way that builds consumer awareness.
Dey recommends retailers “open up the category by bringing in and highlighting additional variety in the fruit sets. Using anchor displays of the usual citrus suspects—navel oranges, mandarins, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, and limes and tying in some of the lesser known varietals to increases consumer interest and sales.”
He continued, “Lesser known citrus varietals are currently breathing in new life to the citrus scene; finger limes, pink lemons, mango oranges, Buddha’s Hand and centennial kumquats can create an immediate demand, especially after consumers taste the fruit.”
Dey advises retailers to offer samples often and place half cut citrus on the displays, exposing the fruit flesh. He said The Lexington Coop in Buffalo, NY employs this method and has seen incredible citrus success with Cara Caras and heirloom oranges, by simply offering passive demos with detailed flavor signage.
Fresh organic berries are more readily available and take up more shelf space into the New Year. Dey said retailers tend to run big promotions on organic berries, offering consumers a healthy fruit option, often at a reasonable price, due to increased producer volumes.
Heading into the next major holiday---Valentines Day----organic strawberries can be tricky, based on weather issues. Dey recommends making room for a wider array of berries, including blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. He also encourages retailers to try larger pack sizes; “Two pound strawberries, 18 ounce blueberries or 9 ounce raspberries. Bigger packs mean bigger dollar rings,” he said.
January also is the beginning of the juice rage, post-holiday “diet season.” The juicing craze is at its most fierce in the first few months of the new year and having juicing items predominantly displayed throughout the department---greens, tart apples, celery, oranges, cucumbers and carrots, among others----- will drive increased movement and command larger spreads naturally, according to Dey.
Convenience continues to demand more and more shelf space in produce, morphing with the seasons. Quick, healthy and organic convenience meals, snacks and pre-prepared veggies and fruit are overtaking the produce aisles. Veggie spirals, riced cauliflower, cubed squash, and organic meal kits are being pre-prepared in stores to take advantage of this surge in the healthy grab and go style of organic eating and cooking.