Progressive Grocer

FEB 2017

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88 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | February 2017 Fresh Food Seasonal Produce increased sales," McGrath asserts. "Our team of in-house demonstra- tors showed our customers how to execute e Blend to enhance a meal experience while saving money, calories and fat. "e overwhelming customer response was, 'Wow, I can do that! It looks easy and tastes great,'" she con- tinues. "at's exactly what we want to hear from our customers." Magnificent Mushrooms Mushrooms are grown year-round indoors, in every region of the United States, and seasonally in certain areas around the country. With such a wealth of fungi, spring is the ideal time to promote local mushroom varieties. "Many people may not know that the mushrooms in their local supermarket are coming from close by," asserts Katie Preis, of the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council. "Tell- ing customers that your mushrooms are local and seasonal are strong selling points." What's more, when customers have the chance to try in-store samples of dishes made with mushrooms, they're more likely to buy. "Retailers have a bigger and bigger influence today. They can use the new flavors of the season to inspire customers to eat more produce and try ingredients they haven't been using," says Preis, who suggests cross-merchandising mush- rooms with other local produce and sampling a spring dish like mushroom-and-fresh-pea risotto. The council's The Blend campaign is another way for retailers to boost spring vegetable sales and encourage healthier eating. While the Mushroom Council is working with the New York-based James Beard Foundation to promote the Blended Burger Project for the third consecutive year, 2017 marks the first time that the project will include a retailer component. Any retailer with an in-store restaurant or deli that sells cooked burgers featuring The Blend can participate this year. "We are encouraging re- tailers to get on board," says Preis. The campaign, which runs Memorial Day through July 30, invites consumers to vote for their favorite blended burger at a restaurant or retail establishment. The restaurant or retail chef with the most votes wins. To learn more, visit www.jamesbeard.org. Although The Blend is more widely established in the foodservice world, Preis finds that the campaign is slowly but surely gaining traction with supermarket retailers. In addition to the success of Redner's Markets (see main sto- ry), Doc's Country Mart and Weis Markets consistently offer The Blend in their delis. "We want The Blend to become a staple in stores," she says. Last spring Doc's, based in Bixby, Okla., celebrated Mush- room Mania with the launch of a pilot program of The Blend in its deli, meat and produce departments. As part of the program, Doc's grabbed shopper attention with custom- ized POS materials; samples of blended burgers, tacos and chili; recipe cards; and store ads featuring instructions on how to make The Blend dishes at home. According to a Mushroom Council case study, Doc's experienced a 60 percent sales increase of fresh mush- rooms in the produce department, and a nearly 12 per- cent increase in hamburger patty sales. Blended burgers represented more than 8 percent of all patties sold. Today, Doc's continues promoting the program. "We realized how influential The Blend was for our customers when they started coming into the store asking for it by name," notes a Doc's representa- tive in the case study. "We continually put blended products in our ad and still have great success with it."

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