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OPN Connect Newsletter 194 · November 26, 2020

Fresh Thyme Market Sees Strong Success in New Organic Identification Program at the Register


In June of this year, Fresh Thyme Market rolled out a new and very strict organic identification program for its cashiers. Designed to help mitigate shrink and prevent sales losses, the program promotes ongoing communication between the produce department and the front end of the store, so cashiers can easily and correctly identify fruits and vegetables.

Misidentification of produce items at the register, particularly when it comes to ringing up an organic item as conventional, can significantly harm a store’s financial performance. 

Fresh Thyme's organic produce display

Stemilt October 2021

“We want to protect our sales and protect our profit and have organic products rung up correctly,” says Scott Schuette, Fresh Thyme’s vice president of produce. “Ringing up an organic avocado as a conventional avocado can cost you upwards of 50 cents per unit in sales and 25–35 cents in margin—these are two areas that we cannot afford to lose in.”

Misidentification of produce items at the register, particularly when it comes to ringing up an organic item as conventional, can significantly harm a store’s financial performance. 

Fresh Thyme’s organic identification program centers around a practice that the retailer refers to as “Show and Tell,” which has two components. The first part is a requirement that all cashiers do a walk-through of the produce section with a senior produce employee each day before they start their shift.

Scott Schuette, Vice President of Produce, Fresh Thyme Market

Wish Farms October 2021

“This is the opportunity for the produce team to train, coach, and mentor the front-end team members,” Schuette explains. “The produce team focuses on showing examples of weekly new items, hard-to-identify items, and organic feature items. [And] we also use this opporunity to review out top shrink items that might be a victim of misidentification up front. 

For the second part of "Show and Tell," the produce manager (or the assistant produce manager) is required to visit the cashiers at the front of the store to go over a few produce items every day at 1pm.

“Ringing up an organic avocado as a conventional avocado can cost you upwards of 50 cents per unit in sales and 25–35 cents in margin—these are two areas that we cannot afford to lose in.” -Scott Schuette

Starr October 2021

“[It’s] another opportunity for reviewing and reminding,” says Schuette. “Showing the front-end team an organic cantaloupe that is wrapped in blue organic tape [versus] the conventional cantaloupe that has no tape sounds like a small reminder but can save $1 for every cantaloupe that is rung up correctly.”

In addition to “Show and Tell,” Fresh Thyme has several other practices to help with accurate produce identification. At the start of each sale, the Fresh Thyme register features a prompt that tells the cashier to ask the customer, “Do you have any organic produce today?” 

Fresh Thyme's register prompt for cashiers

Chelan October 2021

All cashiers are also equipped with a produce identification manual, a list of company-wide top shrink items, a list of store-specific top shrink items, and a weekly “Ollie Report.”

The “Ollie Report” is an organic-only produce memo that lists the organic fruits and vegetables featured in the weekly ad as well as any new items, hard-to-identify items, and top shrink items. “Ollie” refers to “Ollie the Orange,” a fun cartoon superhero who Fresh Thyme dubs “the defender of organics.” 

Ollie the Orange, Fresh Thyme's "Defender of Organics"

NatureSafe October 2021

“Showing the front-end team an organic cantaloupe that is wrapped in blue organic tape [versus] the conventional cantaloupe that has no tape sounds like a small reminder but can save $1 for every cantaloupe that is rung up correctly.” -Scott Schuette

Schuette says the organic identification program has been enormously successful. “Results of the program were showing positive momentum just two weeks [in],” he says. “Sell-through rates and shrink reduction of key categories both show ongoing improvements. … A +400bps improvement on organic shrink reduction and an 11.5-percent increase in organic sales can be attributed to the launch of the strict identification program.”

Fresh Thyme's Weekly Ollie Report

Growers Ice Co October 2021

“[Correct] cashier identification is critical to any organic program success,” says Schuette, who notes that this is even more true now in the COVID era as retail food sales volumes have been increasing and new cashiers are being hired more frequently.

Schuette says that the organic identification program has been especially important for Fresh Thyme because 70 percent of the produce it sells is conventional, which means that its registers default to conventional PLUs (a common practice among companies that carry both conventional and organic produce).

“I think sometimes … a key reason why retailers are hesitant to expand organic is the fear of [organic produce items] being rung up incorrectly,” says Schuette. “We’ve found a way to get over that fear … and I think that’s a pretty exciting thing for us as a retailer to be able to talk about and to tout.”

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