The produce department is so vital to winning store selection, generating trips, putting shoppers in a buying mood, and positioning a banner as a health and wellness destination - and to reach you, the retail dietitian. Especially when backed by nature imagery, water sprayers and bountiful displays, people feel uplifted by the department’s colors, aromas, freshness and possibilities. And when they choose fruits and vegetables from this section of the store, they know they’re making a beneficial decision for the health of their household.
That’s all good. So why are so many supermarkets weakening this impact by cross-merchandising too aggressively? Merchants may think they do no harm with 10-foot sets of salad dressings, or opportunistic displays of croutons, shortcake, whipped cream and other processed foods in certain seasons. Yet these tactics, which were clever years ago, are overdone today. Consumers overwhelmingly want to eat healthier and focus on selecting the best available produce without distraction.
Dietitians who are involved in merchandising, need to keep the team honest and determine what their goal is. Will they use produce as their stores’ key to freshness and wholesomeness, or as an opportunistic place to get people to buy other products?
Shoppers definitely need help with creativity, and showing off salad dressings that are healthy and tasty is beneficial to everyone involved but stores need to hold back and carefully rethink the balance line that allows related items into produce without contradicting the department’s primary reason for being – or diluting the transformational impact produce has on shoppers as they enter the store.
The more retailers do to excite people about produce, the better. This could include tactile displays, a focus on local farmers, health benefits, easy recipes, and signage and Web content about specific items arriving soon as their seasons roll around. These are exciting for shoppers and great talking points for dietitians to help get the conversation started around freshness and nutrition.