Consumers are as hungry for fresh ways to prepare produce as they are for juicy fruits and crisp vegetables themselves.
Cross-merchandising can be an effective tool, both for providing shoppers with new and delicious meal ideas and for reminding them to purchase complementary items that may not be on their grocery lists.
According to Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) “The Power of Produce 2015,” “[I]mproved and expanded ideas and suggestions on how to prepare certain vegetables or include fruit as a meal ingredient would ‘absolutely’ interest 41 percent of shoppers.” The Arlington, Va.-based trade organization further found that shoppers with kids and organic shoppers are most receptive to preparation ideas.
“Consumers tell us all the time that they are looking for new ideas for putting more produce on the family plate,” affirms Michael Joergensen, VP of marketing for NatureSweet, “and this starts with encouraging them to put more produce in their baskets.”
San Antonio-based NatureSweet offers a variety of retail display racks designed to give grocers flexibility when cross-merchandising or featuring tomatoes in a secondary display.
“We know that people buy fresh tomatoes 37 or 38 times a year. That means most weeks they are buying fresh tomatoes,” Joergensen says. “We also know that they are an impulse purchase. Consumers aren’t necessarily putting tomatoes on their shopping lists, but when they see them merchandised, they buy.”
When grocers use the NatureSweet display racks, Joergensen finds that they typically sell 25 percent to 30 percent more product.
Some of NatureSweet’s greatest cross-merchandising success stories have been achieved by positioning its Cherubs tomatoes next to a refrigerator case stocked with bagged salads. Cherubs also pair well with fresh refrigerated salad dressings and salad toppings such as almond slivers and croutons, notes Joergensen.
“Cross-merchandising is one of the best methods for building the shopper’s basket,” asserts Kathy Stephenson, marketing communications director for Pear Bureau Northwest, in Milwaukie, Ore. “It is an excellent way to inspire simple pairings for time-starved shoppers.”
Stephenson has seen great success at retail when grocers promote fun and flavorful salads by cross-merchandising USA Pears with salad bags, nuts and cheese.
“We worked with a retailer last year to feature a leading bagged salad and pears, using a custom recipe, secondary display and digital marketing program. The retailer saw a 130 percent increase in pear sales versus the prior year,” she notes. “The promotion occurred during February, when pear sales are not at their peak season, so it was a great result for everyone involved.”
Stephenson further recommends that grocers use the pear-cheese-and-wine wheel available through USA Pears to create excitement. The interactive POS illustrates a range of pairings that make entertaining easy.
“Tastefully prepared displays in high-traffic areas with recipe signage is the most effective way to create added sales using pears as a fresh hook,” she observes.
Joergensen agrees that recipes can play a key role in converting cross-merchandising into multiproduct sales.
“I think recipes are very important, but not just the recipe alone,” he says. “We found that the recipes on our website that were accompanied by appealing custom images had click-through rates four times higher than the other recipes.” NatureSweet has since updated all of the recipes on its site with custom photography.
The recipes also need to be flavorful and simple. “Consumers want fresh, healthy and big-flavor foods, but they also want to be able to make something in 10 or 15 minutes,” advises Joergensen.
Cross-merchandising in the produce department is also an opportunity to use color to capture shoppers’ attention.
“Use color as a guide when merchandising fresh garlic,” urges Patsy Ross, of Christopher Ranch, in Gilroy, Calif. “A lot of supermarkets put the garlic with the onions and potatoes, but history has proven that garlic is more of an impulse buy. If you put it next to the tomatoes and avocados, the garlic will stand out.”
Colorful cross-merchandising additionally can be achieved through the placement of vibrantly packaged produce.
“Probably the most successful promotion we have had with fresh garlic is with our Halloween boxes,” notes Ross, who adds that some retail chains engage in garlicky All Hallows Eve display contests among their stores.
With the nation’s focus on healthier diets rich in plant-based foods, Joe Tamble, VP of retail sales execution for Kingsburg, Calif.-based Sun-Maid Growers of California, sees tremendous opportunity for cross-merchandising in the produce department. While positioning Sun-Maid dried fruits adjacent to bagged salads is a home run, the products also pair perfectly with nuts and seeds.
“Today, people are interested in eating healthier, and all age groups — not just Millennials — are looking for healthier snack alternatives,” says Tamble, who suggests cross-merchandising dried fruit with store-brand nuts and other complementary items that invite shoppers to create their own trail mixes at home. “We find that just by displaying the product on a table with a complementary product, both products get double exposure.”
California Sun-Dry has similarly found success with cross-merchandising that presents consumers with ideas for creating a personalized dish or appetizer. The Danville, Calif.-based sun-dried tomato company offers shippers featuring recipe ideas that tie into other products, such as a blend of “our Smoked Sun Dried Tomatoes with guacamole for a unique flavor combination the consumer cannot buy in any existing product offering,” says Bill Riley, of California Sun-Dry.
Further, “we look for trial-generating devices like recipes in retailers’ ads, and retailer-initiated cooking demonstrations,” adds Riley. “Both types of approaches show the consumer how to use our product, and give the consumer a reason to try our brand.”
Indeed, showing shoppers how to quickly and easily create some excitement in their own kitchens is a winning move.
“Any time we — suppliers and retailers — can show the consumer a new way to use our products, we can increase consumption of the categories being cross-merchandised,” says Riley. “Since our products are used in everything from side dishes and hors d’oeuvres to center-plate entrées, the opportunities to sell more fresh produce are almost limitless.”
“Cross-merchandising is one of the best methods for building the shopper’s basket.”
—Kathy Stephenson, Pear Bureau Northwest