Progressive Grocer Independent

FEB 2016

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20 | Progressive Grocer Independent | February 2016 2016 I N D E P E N D E N T S OUTSTANDING PRODUCE S ometimes, the perfect produce isn't pretty. Associ- ated Food Stores (AFS), based in Salt Lake City, now ofers the Misft produce program to all of its member stores. After a three-month test at 10 locations, more than 40 stores had signed on by the end of 2015. "We saw this trend happening in Europe," says Leigh Vaughn, produce category manager for AFS. "We wanted to help with the cause of reducing food waste and still al- low our retailers to have a fantastic sales tool." Te wholesaler, which serves more than 500 retailers in the Intermountain West, partnered with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh to build the program from the ground up. Robinson sources imperfect products, in- cluding squash, peppers, cucumbers, mandarins and navel oranges, which are then packaged before distribution and displayed in distinctive wood bins to keep them separate from the stores' traditional produce. Te products are still perfectly edible and taste just as good as their "perfect" cousins. Tey simply might be a lower grade, or an item may be "a medium yellow squash as opposed to a fancy," Vaughn explains. For participating retailers, AFS provides detailed sig- nage to explain the program to customers. A large standup sign gives a full description of the mission to reduce food waste, while smaller shelf signs ofer a quick one-sentence W e want to wow our customers when they come, so they feel comfortable shopping in our de- partment, and they want to come back and buy produce from us again," says Tommy Melton, produce supervisor for Carrollton, Texas-based GE Foodland, which operates three Foodland Markets and fve Elrod's Cost Plus Supermarkets in north Texas. "We want to try to take it to another level." Te stores promote superior quality at a good, competitive price while ofering all of the products each demographic wants — the stores serve a largely Hispanic clientele. Te most popular products, such as jalapeño and serrano peppers, and tomatillos, are plentifully displayed. New wooden bins have been added to attract customers' attention to seasonal items available at a good price. "Tat's what draws [custom- ers] into the department, even if they aren't looking for items from the department at the time," Melton adds. Quality starts with the stores' produce managers, accord- ing to Melton. Tey're trained to inspect the products at least three times a day and remove anything that they wouldn't buy themselves. Te stores use a known loss control program to help eliminate shrink and ensure the correct amount of product is displayed. In addition to department managers inspecting the produce, all supervisors, including store managers, are tasked with inspecting the entire store beyond their departments, so as to have more eyes on quality. Any problems are immediately brought to the attention of the department manager. "Te main thing we want to do is have integrity in our qual- ity," Melton says. Te stores focus more on the best price for the highest-quality product, rather than the cheapest product. "We try to have superior quality so it will last when customers get it home," he adds. "We will stand behind it." blurb. "With the rise of farmers' markets, I think custom- ers are generally more accepting of [these products]. If you go to a farmers' market, you see all kinds of crazy prod- ucts," Vaughn adds. About a half-dozen Misft products are available at a time, with a selection that rotates biweekly to create a "treasure hunt" for customers and ofer something difer- ent every time they come in. Te limited, rotating product line keeps Misft items from cannibalizing sales from traditional produce, as well as creating excitement in the department, as customers never know what they'll fnd. Limiting sales cannibalization and shrink is important, since Misft products are intentionally priced about 35 percent below their traditional counterparts. Associated Food Stores, Salt Lake City, Utah GE Foodland, Carrollton, Texas

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