MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P in its Northeastern division made a big deal of California tree-ripened fruit in its produce departments last month with a special price for three varieties and point-of-sale materials that described the ripening process.
A premium brand of the fruit was offered at $1.99 a pound for peaches, plums and nectarines three weeks in a row last month.The fruits were featured in the division's ad circulars, with photos of them occupying nearly a third of the produce-section's ad. A blurb alongside the photos said, "Tree-ripened fruit is left on the tree five extra days to ensure a sweet, natural flavor!"
At the chain's flagship store in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., SN noted that a display of the fist-sized fruits dominated the beginning of the produce aisle. On a slanted Euro table, 10 cartons, in two vertical rows, showed off the peaches and nectarines on each end of the tables. In the middle, in a vertical row, were five cartons of black plums.
"That's a top-of-the-line brand, Prima, that's displayed there. Those fruits sell very well at this store," a store-level source said.
While the Prima line's retail, even at $1.99, sounds pricey, the Woodcliff Lake store is situated in a particularly high-income area of northern New Jersey.
"Price isn't that much of an issue and customers can see the quality of the fruit," the source told SN. Indeed, the huge pieces of fruit were an eye-catcher in the large display at the flagship store.The first element on the side of the produce aisle, the display sat directly across the aisle from an extensive salad bar.
Colorful signs on stands alongside the tree-ripe fruit display carried the message that the fruits were left on the trees five extra days and a cardboard merchandiser held a stack of "ripening" bags. They're brown paper bags, imprinted with a cartoon character-bag that's tossing fruits into its top. A blurb above the character's head read, "1 or 2 days in me make California peaches, plums and nectarines really, really ripe!"
The other side of the bag had this message: "Three easy steps to riper California peaches, plums and nectarines." The illustrated steps were: "1. Put fruit in bag; 2. fold bag and wait 1 or 2 days; 3. Open and enjoy ripe delicious fruit."
A footnote read, " Remember -- Keep the fruit out of the refrigerator until it's ripe. Once it's ripe, it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days."
The produce department at the flagship store is taking industry-approved measures designed to enhance in-store ripening, associates said.
"We try to keep it more out of refrigeration so we're continuing the ripening process at store level. We store it in the prep room, where it's cool but not cold, minimal refrigeration," one store-level source said.
He added that all summer fruits this year have sold well.
"We sold a ton of Georgia peaches. Last year, there was a problem with the weather and I think we only got one shipment of Georgia peaches. But this year, it's been right along the line, Georgia peaches and then New Jersey peaches."
Getting retailers to keep fruit at a temperature level that encourages ripening has been the aim of an organized effort by Reedley, Calif.-based California Tree Fruit Agreement. While California tree fruit hit the stores late this year because of unusual weather, the CTFA got together a promotional program designed to increase retail sales through proper in-store ripening [see "Late Summer Fruit Crop Gets Intense Support," SN, May 10, 1999].
Called Partners in Ripeness, the CTFA program requires supermarket operators to warehouse the fruit at above 51 degrees Fahrenheit and store it at room temperature. Retailers complying with the requirements are eligible to receive appropriate point-of-sale materials from the CTFA and receive credit for participation in CTFA-generated promotions.