A bunch of great ideas were brought up during this morning's produce manager panel, moderated by Harold Lloyd.
Joe Friest, produce manager for Ric's Foodcenter said that his store had seen increased competition from weekend farmers markets. So, to draw customers back, he's gone from promoting locally grown to “community grown,” highlighting products that are grown near the store. The phrase has a much better ring to it than “ultra local,” and it's easy to set up demos when a grower's farm is only a couple of miles away. “It builds relationships, because [these farmers] shop in our store too,” Friest said.
Chris Prosia, produce manager for Longo Bros. agreed that establishing a connection between growers and shoppers has become increasingly important. Demos and meet and greets with farmers are ideal, Prosia explained, but Longo Bros. also has flat panel televisions playing looped video of its produce buyers visiting the fields and facilities of the growers the company works with.
Richard Semus, produce manager for Save Mart Supermarkets said that his company had made a deal with a large grower to get first pick of the strawberry crop during a six week window in peak season. Shoppers now anticipate these strawberries and ask about them every year. His store also recently drove sales of artichokes — an item that many shoppers do not know how to prepare — by building a big display during peak season, cross merchandising them with olive oil, and giving customers cooking ideas.
And, SN has already reported on a couple of Lequitte Perry's promotions at Food City, such as the annual Easter Apple hunt for kids. Perry also regularly reaches out to community organizations through visits to schools, senior centers, parades, etc. But, food safety has also been top of mind for many shoppers after the recent listeria outbreak, and Food City has had an answer to those concerns as well. Every four hours, Food City produce departments throughout the chain have been checking pallets, boxes and items with handheld scanners, and sending that data back to headquarters to ensure that there have not been any recalls. At Perry's store, she has the intercom explain what's going on to shoppers.