Selling produce to your customers is the primary goal of the produce department in the retail supermarket business. There is also another objective connected to selling—the practice of "giving back" to your customers, the community, and the produce industry.
There's more to an organic produce program than only stocking organic produce on a display in a supermarket produce department. The quality of the organic product you handle, the artistic way in which you display it, the variety of choices you offer, and the pricing will establish a company’s reputation within the marketing community. It's all about a way of giving back a value to support the area shoppers—as well as the organic farmers.
Sunset Foods organic produce department
But it doesn't stop there. Giving back and supporting the organic produce growers, shippers, and other suppliers also develops a marketing strategy that can make a positive image for companies.
One of the retailers that consistently supports organics is Sunset Foods, which is headquartered in Highland Park, IL. The company owners place a premium on giving back to the communities it serves.
The quality of the organic product you handle, the artistic way in which you display it, the variety of choices you offer, and the pricing will establish a company’s reputation within the marketing community.
And it begins with superior product and service standards, according to Vince Mastromauro, Sunset Foods' director of produce operations.
"It all started in 1990 when we were introduced to an organic produce segment from a new startup wholesaler. The biggest challenge was understanding what we needed to do, different items, and sales floor space required,” Mastromauro said. “So, I decided to handle a few mainstream items and see where it would take us."
Vince Mastromauro, Director of Produce Operations, Sunset Foods
Whenever a retailer takes on a new produce item, let alone an entire category, the challenge is to make the product influential for consumers. It also requires employee education about the product—its fundamentals, handling, and merchandising strategy.
Organic produce oftentimes doesn't get the attention it deserves, and an effective program needs educational understanding and commitment along with strategies to move it forward.
"It all started in 1990 when we were introduced to an organic produce segment from a new startup wholesaler." - Vince Mastromauro
An effective and efficient sales program starts with a pinpoint strategy. Here are some ways to initiate a plan of action when promoting an organic program:
- Vision — Focus on serving the consumer first and foremost. The goal should always be to build sales now and for the future. Plan to build sales on the organic items customers want the most as a startup; then shape the category with variety around those basics.
Sunset Foods organic produce department
- Market Penetration — Going after a larger market share of organic produce sales will grow the program. Placing an emphasis on organic items through advertising promotions and in-store merchandising is the best method.
- Teamwork — Educate your employee team about the program and its importance. The workers are on the sales floor directly communicating with shoppers. If they don't know the program and its goals, the program will fail.
Sunset Foods produce team
- Displays — Location and space is essential when presenting organic product. The more conspiculously you display the items, the better your sales results will be.
"For future growth, I keep up with the trends and expand on convenience items on the conventional side, such as bagged vegetables, chopped salads, as well as new and trendy items,” Mastromauro said. “Then I always look to introduce it on the organic side. We like to align with the best growers by building brand recognition, which I feel the organic industry has started to do very well."
Sunset Foods organic produce display
Strong customer relations have become the backbone of any brand seeking to resonate with consumers. The organic produce program commitment and goals Sunset Foods has established under the leadership of Mastromauro is exceptional. His merchandising team understands and believes in growing the organic sales to high levels.
"For future growth, I keep up with the trends and expand on convenience items on the conventional side, such as bagged vegetables, chopped salads, as well as new and trendy items. Then I always look to introduce it on the organic side." - Vince Mastromauro
Mastromauro said he plans to share what he learns at the upcoming Organic Produce Summit with his team. "I hope to learn of new products, ideas, and especially meet growers and shippers to build a relationship, so they know Vince at Sunset Foods is onboard and ready to rock," he said.
Ron Pelger is a produce industry adviser and industry writer. He can be contacted at 775-843-2394 or by e-mail at email@example.com.