OXNARD, Calif. -- Dark-colored green beans hold more eye appeal than their lighter counterparts, and therefore can help boost sales of this particular piece of produce, according to a survey.
Retailers contacted by SN, however, debated some of the conclusions reached by the poll, which was sponsored by Asgrow Vegetable Seeds, based here.
The poll found that 91% of consumers agreed or strongly agreed that dark-colored green beans looked fresher and more appealing than the light-colored variety. It also found that 75% of respondents stated they would buy darker green beans when making future purchases.
"The consumers picked the darker green color of the fresh bean, because they said it looked fresher, crisper [and] more nutritious," said Leo Zanoni, director of industry relations and produce merchandising for Asgrow.
The survey was conducted in various markets throughout Tennessee and Wisconsin. The University of Tennessee conducted the survey in its home state and a number of independent consultants conducted the survey in the Wisconsin markets.
Of the retailers surveyed, many said that point-of-purchase materials increase sales. Others said that prepackaged beans helped move products.
According to Zanoni, some of the retailers presently carrying Asgrow beans and the company's POP materials include Kroger, Cincinnati; Supervalu, Minneapolis; Star Markets, Cambridge, Mass.; Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh; Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass.; Piggly Wiggly, Richlands, N.C.; Meijer Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Trenton, N.J.-based ShopRite of Pennington.
According to Bob Summers, director of produce for Meijer, its fresh green beans are supplied by a number of sources that are acquainted with retailer's age-old preference for dark-colored green beans.
"If I receive a darker color bean in our stores, it does have better eye appeal," said Summers. "[Suppliers] know after doing business with us for a lot of years, the quality of bean that we're always looking for."
Summers explained that in the produce business, it's usually understood that retailers want a flavorful bean, that's tender and carries a lustrous green hue. "That's what sells beans," he said.
However, he conceded that it's not always possible to source dark beans. In these instances, the retailer must remind consumers that lighter beans can contain just as much flavor and texture.
He said what doesn't sell is what the industry calls a "heavy bean" or a thick, big, light-colored bean. These pieces are characterized not only by color, but by poor flavor as well.
At Kroger, perceived freshness is the key to selling its green beans, not the color factor, explained James Jackson, assistant produce merchandiser for Kroger's Mid-Atlantic division.
"Whether lighter or darker, it all depends on what they're going to perceive as maybe a fresher bean," said Jackson. "That's what your bottom line is, which one looks fresher. That's what consumers are most concerned with."
He said that a darker bean may not necessarily look as fresh as the lighter bean. Furthermore, he believes the lighter bean might look "cleaner."
"You really couldn't answer that question unless you had the product in front of you," said Jackson. "You just couldn't say, darker no, lighter yes. It's what the customer is going to perceive as freshness."
Asgrow's Zanoni believes that color was definitely a factor for a number of the Tennessee consumers surveyed. He said that, while a majority of consumers in the other markets cited the dark-color beans as a better product, some neighborhoods in Tennessee selected the lighter-colored beans "because they associated them with fresh garden beans."
He also said bean color was an issue for some retailers who began receiving shipments of darker-colored beans from Asgrow.
"We changed the color and had some rejected shipments because the fresh-market people were not used to getting dark-color beans," said Zanoni. "They thought the beans were frozen in shipment."
Typically, retailers are used to receiving lighter beans because many wholesalers buy for price and aren't concerned with color variants, he explained.
In comparison, retailers like Kroger and Meijer buy directly from the growers and, therefore, "are more cognizant of the dark green color," he said. He noted that there are benefits associated with selling the dark-colored green beans.
"We found that under the lighting in the store, the dark color looks better," said Zanoni. "If you take lighter green beans, like on a Monday or Tuesday when you have less traffic, and you dump them in an open display and they sit for eight hours, they look old. If the bean is darker, even after that eight-hour period, they still look fresher and crisper."