Progressive Grocer

JAN 2017

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94 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | January 2017 Fresh Food PG 's 2016 Produce Power Session technology increasingly influence impactful mer- chandising. Adams pointed to the Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Lunds & Byerlys, which uses a chang- ing digital screen over its berry display to capture customer attention and sell more product in the produce department. Digital signage is an opportunity to drive mes- saging, affirmed Guy Dille, retail BA leader and NA service business development for Mettler To- ledo North America, in Columbus, Ohio. "Lever- age those assets in the store, and as you see what's happening in that department in a given week, you can adjust your messaging," he noted. Forecasting Flavor Consumer demand for flavor is changing the fresh produce landscape, affirmed roundtable moderator Meg Major, PG's chief content editor, who asked about the importance of flavor to customer loyalty and the bottom line. PG's Produce Power Session partici- pants unanimously agreed that taste is non-negotiable. "We had one of our best years yet by going after flavor," asserted Tom Williams, director of produce and floral merchandising for St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn's Inc. "In looking at the Millennial customers and what resonates with them, we know they like the convenience factor, but it has to have flavor." With an eye on this coveted consumer and beyond, Coborn's last year opened a next-generation store (see PG's Store of the Month in this issue, starting on page 42) that emphasizes flavorful produce, bakery and deli. "It's all about fresh and quality," said Williams. e new store concept also features a Chop Shoppe — an area of the store devoted to the made-to-order prepping and packag- ing of produce for customers — which, he observed, artfully "combines flavor and nostalgia." "Flavor is hugely important for our member base," agreed Oleen Smethurst, assistant VP/ GMM buying and operations/produce for Ottawa, Ontario-based Costco Wholesale Canada. She sees the demand for tastier produce driving hothouse and tomatoes on the vine, as well as new, more flavor-packed apple varieties. Demand for more flavorful produce is also driv- ing sales in specialty, local and organic produce. "It's an exciting time," enthused Mike Orf, assistant VP of produce operations for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc., who pointed to a shift in demand for more specialty items in potatoes and categories across the board. Today's "flavor- seeking shoppers are never going back," he added. Ease and Innovation Flavor may be foremost, but consumer desire for new experiences, in tandem with convenience, is fueling innovation in the produce industry. "People want to try new things," asserted Smethurst. Costco Canada's membership-based club stores continually seek to innovate. "We're looking to differentiate, and we know if something is going to work [in our stores] within two weeks." Product presentation also plays a critical role here. In a warehouse setting, noted Smethurst, packaging and color are even more important to attract shopper attention. "We try to make it an adventure every time shop- pers come in," said Eric Beelitz, director of produce for Mahwah, N.J.-based Inserra Supermarkets. Bountiful and ever-changing displays, along with convenience-focused, on-trend produce items are a recipe for success at this family-owned chain with 22 ShopRite stores in New Jersey and New York. Under Beelitz's direction and that of its leadership team, Inserra is turning produce into one of its signa- ture departments. Consumer demand for convenience has driven innovation and reduced shrink at Inserra. "e convenience pipeline — using cut fruit and cut veg in the meat department — is really helping us with shrink," he noted. "It is labor-intensive, but it's very profitable." Convenience is equally important at Tops Markets. "Anything that can save the customer work is selling," said Jeff Cady, director of produce/floral for Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops. "Cut fruit continues to grow at double digits." "Bulk veg sets keep getting smaller, and value-added and kits keep get- ting bigger," concurred Jeff Fairfield, director of produce for New Seasons Market, a 17-store chain based in Port- land, Ore. "If it's something people can eat in the car, sales are growing. If they have to wash, peel or seed it before they m I nd r E ad I n G m arketing Brainology's m ichelle a dams explains how the human brain receives marketing messages. If it's something people can eat in the car, sales are growing. If they have to wash, peel or seed it before they eat it, it's not going anywhere for us." —Jeff Fairfield, n ew Seasons m arket

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