Dig in to win produce sales

As Whole Foods and Walmart step up produce merchandising, TLR offers ways other food retailers can compete.

October 22, 2013

Perhaps in response to Walmart’s stronger efforts in produce, Whole Foods Market has raised the ante in fresh fruits, vegetables and floral.  Its new ratings system signs products as “good, better, or best,” as a way to help shoppers make more informed choices.

The ratings are based on a science-based index that measures supplier performance on sustainable farming issues, such as: pest management, farmworker welfare, pollinator protection, water conservation and protection, soil health, ecosystems, biodiversity, energy, climate, and waste recycling and packaging.

Further, ratings also certify suppliers on Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Protected Harvest and Demeter Biodynamic standards.

This program is akin to Whole Food’s earlier standards for meat and seafood.  It is also, we feel at The Lempert Report, a subtle way to trade shoppers up to higher-rated purchases.

“Good-better-best” is a center-store category merchandising approach that consumers understand, and we feel could carry over well into fresh perishables.  Meanwhile, CPG-style marketing has also come to produce; licensed characters and fun product names pitch healthy fruit and vegetable snacks to children. 

How else could supermarkets make produce less complex and more appealing?

We offer several ideas:

  • Don’t group all oranges, apples, peppers and other like items together.  Rather, physically segment by “good, better and best.”
  • Any fruits that are labeled to “refrigerate after opening” should be merchandised in a refrigerated display.
  • Display fruits and vegetables by attributes.  For example, group items that are rich in antioxidants or come from the same country.

With such groupings, retailers can more prominently display the more premium items—such as the honey crisp apple rather than the McIntosh.  The look and aromas of the better products make a stronger impact, and breed a higher product familiarity and appreciation by shoppers.  It is also easier for higher-end shoppers to find what they seek, it encourages others to trial and step up, and it conveys a stronger, positive image for this anchor department. 

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