Progressive Grocer

JAN 2017

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January 2017 | | 95 eat it, it's not going anywhere for us." Convenient bagged salads, which took the pro- duce business by storm some years ago, are now a mainstay in supermarkets across America. But some industry experts believe that dialing in the right mix and set space will be the key to further growth. "We want the consumer to spend seven seconds on their salad selection. In the U.S., it's five seconds, but if they spend 15, they're confused and we've lost them," explained Brian Huh, VP of category development and customer strategy for Dole Fresh Vegetables, in Monterey, Calif. While sales of bagged salads once soared, Huh noted that sales are now flat. "e data is suggest- ing [the category] is waiting for innovation," he said. "One of the biggest challenges in this is certainly that retailers have maintained the same amount of space and want sales to increase. We need to increase space in the salad category in order to increase sales." e industry has witnessed the growth in bagged salads shift to chopped kits. "ey've directed most of the growth in the category this year," noted Glenn Daniels, VP of customer development in the eastern region for Earthbound Farm, in San Juan Bautista, Calif. "Flavor and convenience are why we're seeing these chopped salads fly off the shelves." Why Not Try? "e biggest pressure for produce today is that it's the new battleground for price," asserted Hy-Vee's Orf. "e Toronto market is particularly competitive on price," agreed Mimmo Franzone, director of produce and floral for Vaughan, Ontario-based Longo Bros. Fruit Markets. To blunt the price war barrage, Lon- go's has successfully increased its touchpoints with customers, including its Why Not Try? campaign to entice shoppers to eat a new fruit or vegetable in its biweekly circular. "We put our own knowledge- able people on the demos," explained Franzone, which include samples, a discussion of the origin of the produce, its taste profile and serving suggestions. "It has dramatically increased sales," he affirmed. A similar effort has yielded increased produce sales at Coborn's. Williams shared that in-store demos, ramped-up staff training and a focus on customer engagement increased sales significantly in eight Coborn's stores in just five months. "You don't have to be the cheapest; you have to have great service and quality," agreed Fair- field. With that in mind, New Seasons employs produce promotional managers to create taste experiences for shoppers. Connecting In-store and Online When asked about the best means of staying ahead of the competitive curve, retailer partici- pants indicated that both in-store and online efforts have become a powerful combination in educating and delighting shoppers. "How do you merchandise the department to get that 'wow' effect? Build massive displays of seasonal items and stay on top of all trends," as- serted Beelitz. "But to really increase consumption, you have to have a knowledgeable produce team," which is why he conducts 15-minute weekly con- ference calls with his produce staff to set expecta- tions, recognize strong team performers, discuss merchandising plans and goals, and review which categories are performing well and why. "Knowl- edge is power," noted Beelitz. "It comes down to what you do in store," Orf said. "You have to offer a different experience than other folks. You need to consider how the bakery and deli tie into produce with cheese and bread. Celebrate produce and get behind certain items." At Coborn's, dynamic in-store events supported by electronic communication are making an impact and increasing sales. e grocer has cultivated a re- lationship with a merchandiser that creates enticing recipes featuring fresh produce from Coborn's. e merchandiser now has an online following among Coborn's shoppers. "We're taking creativity to a whole new level in-store," said Williams. On the supplier side, companies are expanding social media and education efforts. "I've been in the industry for 30 years, and I have never been on a roller coaster like this," admitted Wayne D. Brown, VP of sales for Fairfield, Calif.-based Calbee North America, maker of the plant-based Harvest Snaps snack line. Brown marveled at the growth in pro- duce-based snacks, such as Harvest Snaps, which engages in sampling and social media campaigns, and recently implemented a loyalty card. "We're trying to educate retailers so they can in turn educate consumers," noted Jim Grabowski, director of marketing for Well-Pict Berries, in Watsonville, Calif. "We engage with recipes and social media, and we work with bloggers. Our goal is to get berries into the stores and let them speak for themselves." PG Retailer and Supplier 2017 Wish Lists Gathering produce executives from both the retail and supply side of the business gave Progressive Grocer the opportunity to ask both parties their wish lists for greater collaboration in 2017. "Regular communication is the simple answer," said Rick Seguin, general manager of the Leamington-based Ontario Greenhouse Veg- etable Growers (OGVG). Seguin joined the OGVG several years ago, after a 32-year career with Agriculture and AgriFood Canada (AAFC) and other federal government departments. "Come to me with a solution, not a problem," urged Jeff Cady, of Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets. "Have a business plan and share your instincts with me. We're partners in this business." "Let us help you manage the category," said Brian Huh, of Monterey, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables. "Let us help you increase sales." We try to make it an adventure every time shoppers come in." —Eric Beelitz, Inserra Supermarkets For Produce Power Session participants' thoughts on health and wellness, visit

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