Effective displays that contrast colorful product, use playful themes, and highlight nutrition and cooking information can grab customer attention and boost fruit and vegetables sales.
So, David Dozier, produce manager and co-owner of GFF Foods in Moore, Okla., enters several display contests each year, attracting attention with lively banners, point-of-sale materials provided by produce associations, and items from his personal collections.
The grand prize winner in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee contest for five years running, Dozier incorporated his interest in collecting fire fighting memorabilia into his 2010 display. On the display banner, a cartoon onion fire fighter exclaimed that Idaho-Eastern Oregon “sweet onions save the day!” and that the onions are “battling a blaze of boring blandness!” Similar themes were used in his winning National Apple Month program display featured above.
Dozier, who is also a member of Oklahoma City Fire Department's Citizens Fire Academy Alumni Association, gave the display of loose and packaged onions a personal touch, adding fire trucks and, from his collection, a small fire hydrant and fire helmet.
For Dozier, a 40-year-veteran of grocery industry, the effort he and his team put into creative displays pays off.
“The sales definitely increase. They can increase anywhere probably from — I think the lowest we've had was 7 [percent] and the highest we had was like 25%,” said Dozier.
In the Idaho Potato Commission's large yearly retail display contest, displays are not limited to drawing attention to Idaho potatoes, but to the department in general in February, a slow month for produce.
The display “gives [retailers] the opportunity to draw attention to items that might be overlooked,” said Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail/international at the Idaho Potato Commission. “So generally what it does is it increases — yes, increases potato sales dramatically — but it also increases sales of the entire produce departments.”
Indeed, several fruit and vegetable associations that spoke with SN agreed that special displays boost sales.
For the Idaho potato contest, which receives over 2,500 entries and offers $150,000 in prizes, winning displays must achieve balance between coolness and practicality. The five-person Idaho Potato Commission contest committee looks for displays that are creative and accessible, and they look for displays that use catch phrases, themes and signs.
While displays may be aesthetically pleasing or interesting, they still need to help sell product.
“Shoppability is important. Because really what that means is that: Can the consumer come up and buy the product? I mean, for example, sometimes the displays are built very creatively, but you can't really buy product,” Pemsler said, giving the example of a potato mountain that consumers can't pull a potato from.
In produce displays, retailers have an opportunity to tell the “story” of the promoted fruit or vegetable.
Pemsler said the Idaho Potato Commission doesn't try to diminish creativity by telling retailers the messaging needs to be about Idaho, but that often the messaging is related. “That's why they build a volcano. Why? Because one of our messages is What's different about Idaho? Our rich volcanic soil,” he said.
Targeted at small retailers, the National Mango Board's first display contest last summer encouraged retailers to use displays to educate shoppers about mangos.
In addition to incorporating the board's nutrition messaging and tagline of squeezing fruit gently for ripeness, many retailers incorporated tropical themes and used themes that educated shoppers on the countries the fruit came from.
“Some of them picked up on the various sources and they … did an around the world cultural look at mangoes, where they would have information about Mexico, and Ecuador and Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, Haiti. Those are the six top countries for shipping mangos to the US,” said Wendy McManus, director of marketing for the National Mango Board.
While the California Avocado Commission doesn't run national display contests, the group encourages retailers to communicate to shoppers about growers.
“Our campaign has been called the California Avocado Grower Campaign since 2008 and basically we feel very strongly about the benefits of telling the story, and we've utilized growers to help tell our story,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing, California Avocado Commission.
DeLyser said the commission uses signage of avocado farmers, in which they describe why and how they grow avocadoes, or how the grower likes to eat avocado.
In addition to using displays to tell grower stories, retailers have looked for ways to make produce attractive to kids.
“We actually started making kid's sections in our stores, whether they're two feet or four feet, depending on the store,” said Bob Gould, produce director at Food Circus.
Gould said they try to keep the displays — with items like bags of sliced apples and baby carrots — near the organic produce or the cut fruit section.
“The thing is with schools, everything is healthy lunches,” Gould told SN, noting that in New Jersey some schools have prohibited sugary snacks like cupcakes at parties.
“We actually started carrying — which you know they don't sell like crazy, but we do sell them — an apple platter, where the apples are already cut up and there's an apple cinnamon dip in the middle. We actually brought it in just for that reason.”
With the 2012 display contest theme of “All American winners,” the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee hopes to get retailers to create patriotic displays and displays that reach kids.
“We have a variety of images that we've taken earlier this fall of kids enjoying onions at a meal and then also out in the field,” said Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Onion Committee. “And these kids happen to be children or grandchildren of our onion industry members — either growers or shippers.”
In developing signs for displays, a little effort can go a long way. Recipe ideas and health information are important to include, Jones said.
She also recommended that retailers communicate the difference between different onion varieties. Simply writing short indications of the product's use in magic marker, like “Red onion: wonderful on salads and pizzas” could be helpful to customers.
Pear Bureau Northwest Marketing Manager Bob Koehler, who organizes display contests within chains, also emphasized the importance of using signs and point-of-sale material to communicate nutrition and flavor profiles.
“And the thing is, everybody says, ‘Well don't pears pretty much taste the same?’ And through the point of sale, through merchandising, you try to give that flavor profile,” Koehler said.
As an example, Koehler said he receives many comments from consumers about how they never bought a Bosc pear because they thought it was bad due to the brown coloring.
One way to combat customer confusion, Koehler suggested, is to include brief flavor profiles on signs — especially on pears that are russeted or not well known.
For example, Koehler said he has a couple retailers that merchandise the fairly new Concorde variety as the “vanilla pear” because of the vanilla aftertaste. Or, retailers can adopt the Seckel Pear's nickname as the “sugar pear” for signage, using language like, “sugar pears for the kids: sweet and juicy.”
Regardless of the product, shoppers are hungry for cooking knowledge and appreciate quick tips. Sometimes, simply cross merchandising can give remind shoppers of good combinations.
Food Circus focuses a lot on cross merchandising with their weekly displays at the front of the store, mixing in both products from different departments as well as nonfood items like peelers and corers.
“For instance, green beans: we'll try to tie in the fried onions and the cream of mushroom soup for that casserole. Yams: we'll tie in mini marshmallows and brown sugar. So we try to utilize as many departments as we can so it's like a one-stop shopping,” said Gould.
A couple of days before the holidays, Food Circus puts together a display of platters from different departments in a portion of the salad bar, so shoppers can quickly pick up food for entertaining.