Thanks to increased desire for sourcing local food and awareness around healthy eating, fresh produce is enjoying its time in the spotlight.
Consider these insights from a recent Nielsen study on consumer perceptions of local:
- Consumers consider produce to be one of three most important products to buy local (along with bakery and eggs)
- Buying local is highly important even to low income households
- The largest percentage of consumers preferred less than 50 miles for a product to be grown or raised to consider it local
Add to that a growing concern over the safety of factory farm produce fueled by recent recalls, and IGA CEO John Ross sees opportunities for IGA’s independent retailers to use their produce department as a true point of differentiation. “Shoppers generalize their experience and the quality of your store based on their impressions of your produce department. This is our chance to tell our local story and cement IGA’s position as their partner in their quest for healthier eating.”
From forging relationships with family farms and branding the store with Local Equals Fresh signage to creating innovative produce promotions, here are 10 ideas helping IGA retailers score big in produce.
Develop New Relationships with Farmers:
- Put out a call to action: Not sure where to start in your search for sourcing new local products? Try getting the word out on your social media channels (like this post from Spano’s Supa in Australia). If nothing else, it will let your followers know you are serious about getting more local goods into the store.
- Continually source new products: As seen in this Local Equals Fresh campaign video, which featured Geissler’s in Somers, Connecticut, the company has reaped the benefits of longstanding partnerships with area egg farmers, orchards, and other producers. According to Geissler’s President Bob Rybick, Geissler's is always looking for new producers that help them deliver the local, healthy, and convenient meals shoppers want. “It’s a matter of searching the market, farmers markets, etc. to find prospective partners. From there, it’s calling the vendor meeting and just simply laying out a mutually beneficial plan,” he said in a recent interview.
Highlight Local Partnerships
Once your relationships are in place, look for ways to showcase new partners.
- Focus on what’s unique and different: Find ways to surprise your customers, such as offering fresh, locally grown lettuce in the middle of a frigid Montana winter. That’s the case at Gary and Leos in Havre, Montana, who teamed up with a local grower to offer hydroponically grown lettuce.
- Display and demo: Once you've found that unique product, don't forget to demo and display. Catch your shoppers’ attention with a display or demo. Local grower Boltz Family Farms set up a mini hydroponic system at Baker's IGA in Newcomerstown, Ohio, to show the lettuce and promote the store’s takeout salads made with it.
- Think value-added products: Winning in produce isn't only about selling fruits and vegetable straight from the field. It's also about the stand-out products created with that produce. North Albany Supermarket IGA in North Albany, Oregon carries Coach’s Salsa, a line of fresh salsas handmade in small batches at a nearby farm. The store recently featured Coach’s in one of their weekly tasting events.
- Tell the stories: Build excitement by featuring the farmer behind the foods, showcasing the farm, the products, and the people, with lots of photos to help tell the story. For inspiration, check out this Facebook post from Mt. Plymouth IGA in Sorrento, Florida.
Sales and Promotions
They introduced their almost 21,000 followers to the family farm Long & Scott Farm, with pictures of the farmers, along with the strawberries, corn, cucumbers, and other veggies they grow. Back in a November IGA Minute, we looked at how Brackett’s IGA used social media to generate excitement for a new relationship with a family farm in Maine. In addition to telling the story online, make sure to carry the storytelling throughout the store, using signage that is part of the “Local Equals Fresh” brand kit. At Geissler’s, they use magnetic signs in the produce and dairy departments to identify family farms.
Get creative with bundling and packaging your produce sales and promotions.
- Fill it fresh: A popular promotion taking place at many IGA stores across the country (check this best practice from Archie's IGA). Come up with a list of produce that customers can pick from and fill a paper bag for a set price (usually $20). Some items can have limits placed on the number that shoppers can pick. Benefits: Shoppers get the flexibility and choice of what they’ll fill up on and you get to move some produce and showcase your commitment to fresh and local! Here are a few links to stores’ promotions on Facebook: Broadus IGA in Broadus, Montana, North Albany Supermarket IGA, (one of the page followers posted a photo of her haul) and Gary & Leo’s.
- Meal prep made easier: One of the obvious ways to feature more value-added produce items and promote your fresh offerings is to cut and wrap pre-cut fruits and veggies, as seen in these social media posts from Isom IGA in Isom, Kentucky, and The Park Hive IGA in Perth, Australia. (Hint: use the new “Cut Fresh Here” stickers that are part of the “Local Equals Fresh” brand kit) These also make it easier for the shopper to incorporate more fresh fruits and veggies into their diets. Check out an IGA best practice here.
- BOGO deal: Oftentimes, people link local food with being more expensive. Bust that myth and promote your farm partners by offering a BOGO deal, such as a BOGO cabbage that Mt. Plymouth IGA did right before St. Patrick’s Day.
- Bundle it: The best things in life come in bundles, right? Like this free veggies with pot roast purchase pairing from Hansen's IGA in Washburn, Wisconsin. Mt. Plymouth IGA offers a wide range of meat and veggie bundles, with prices that range from $9 to $34. For example, the Large Veggie Bundle contains three broccoli crowns, three cucumbers, one cabbage, three red onions, three green peppers, six ears of corn, six beefsteak tomatoes, three pounds of green beans, and three packs of mushrooms (8 oz each) for $34. Customers can shop and purchase (along with many other food staples) online and arrange for store pick up.
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