Positive health benefits, low cost and versatility help maintain popularity
The broad appeal of carrots has been bolstered by the diversity created within the category during recent years. “Carrots are universally enjoyed, and it’s important to make them accessible, affordable and convenient so they fit into different lifestyles and can be applied to different occasions,” says Scott LaPorta, president of Bolthouse Farms located in Bakersfield CA.
Nancy Grace, produce manager with Georges Dreshertown Shop-n-Bag, an upscale independent grocer located in Dresher, PA, recalls how in her 20 years of experience carrots have evolved. “One- and 2-pound whole bagged and 1- and 2-pound short cut/bagged carrots were the original variety we had. Today, I counted 17 different varieties that are offered in our department.”
Health trends serve to support carrot sales. “Carrots are widely recognized for their beta carotene and fiber content,” says Matt Curry, president of Curry & Company, Brooks, OR. “Carrots have certainly been influenced by several of the health benefits trending now, including the orange color, which helps people ‘eat a variety of colors’ in their fruits and vegetables to maximize health benefits.”
Value and availability make this healthy product an easy choice for consumers. “While consumers are increasingly looking for a more wholesome diet, affordability is a factor that many people should consider when shopping for their family,” says LaPorta. “If the product is easy to find and easy to use, consumers will naturally gravitate toward it, while new flavor offerings help keep carrots interesting and fun.”
The low-price, high-value relationship of carrots is noted by Pierre Dolbec, vice-president sales and procurement with VegPro International Inc., Sherrington, Quebec, Canada, as a crucial factor. “Carrots are a very versatile product and can be cooked, juiced, used in salads or snacks,” he adds.
Energize With Options
Retailers can use a variety of options in the carrot category to drive sales, including new flavor profiles. “Our Vidalia Sweet Carrots are only available from late February through June,” says Curry. “Our carrot season gives retailers a reason to promote carrots with great seasonal flavor that are perfect for fresh snacking and also enhances a bevy of recipes.”
Multicolored carrots enhance displays and draw attention to the product. “Add rainbow carrots, baby carrots and baby rainbow carrots to any display for variety,” suggests Katie Bassmann, marketing/communications with Lakeside Organic Gardens, which is based in Watsonville, CA.
K-VA-T Food Stores with 132 units, which is based in Abingdon, VA, reports customers like unique carrot colors. “We have had very good success in promoting 12-ounce rainbow mini-peeled and rainbow bunch carrots,” says Keith Cox, produce category manager.
Likewise rainbow carrots are a favorite of shoppers at George’s Dreshertown Shop-n-Bag. “Especially fresh bunches of rainbows,’ says Grace. “They add beautiful color when merchandising with ‘greens’.”
“Mix them with green vegetables, not root crops the way so many retailers do. This breaks up color in the produce section and promotes carrots as a fresh item to be used in salads.”
— Steve Sterling, Fresh-Link Produce
Nutritional benefits add another dimension to marketing colors. “The Beta Sweet Maroon carrot as a whole contains approximately 40 percent more beta-carotene than the traditional orange carrots, and the purple exterior contains the antioxidant anthocyanin,” says James Bassetti III, president with J& D Produce located in Edinburg, TX. “Our main customers are the foodies and those who are big into juicing.” Organics present additional opportunity for carrot sales. “Organics seem to be trending upward in carrots,” explains Chris Smotherman, account manager of Kern Ridge Growers located in Arvin, CA.
Highlight Versatile Displays
Successful carrot sales start with ample, attractive displays. “Put out full and fresh displays with all packaged varieties grouped together in a vertical set to showcase all the carrots you have to offer,” suggests Cox of K-VA-T Food Stores. “Bunch carrots should always be full and fresh looking as if they were just picked.”
Bulk carrots can be sold with or without tops to change the look according to Bassmann of Lakeside Organic Gardens. Proper placement and good pricing in the department is key. “Secondary displays will increase volume,” says Cox. “We have good success when advertising carrots with other items as a multiple buy, for example three for $5, mix or match.”
George’s Dreshertown says variety can boost sales. “We carry everything from fresh bunches to shreds,” says Grace. “Some are for dipping (chips and sticks) and some for cooking and microwaving.”
At Fresh-Link Produce in Lake Park, GA, general manager Steve Sterling advises buyers to keep carrots cold for extended shelf life. “Mix them with green vegetables, not root crops the way so many retailers do. This breaks up color in the produce section and promotes carrots as a fresh item to be used in salads.”
Innovative packaging is instrumental in moving product .
“We offer a variety of carrots including baby, matchstick and rounds, and we innovate with different packaging such as with our Veggie Snackers,” says LaPorta of Bolthouse Farms. “Merchandising based on different seasons will help the carrots stand out.” Getting creative with pack options adds value for consumers. “We are seeing some value-added options the past couple of years, including some packages with seasonings,” says Curry of Curry and Company.
Tailoring product packaging to customer needs will create additional opportunities. “Stores catering to families that cook a lot at home and want to make their dollars count should carry larger packs like 5-pound bags,” says Smotherman of Kern Ridge. “Selling carrots loose by the pound will help boost sales. Other stores may have a customer base that eats at home less, so smaller packs like 12-ounce or 1-pound will be a better value — or even convenience items like shredded carrots.” Cox of K-VA-T notes the availability of a 12-ounce bag of petite, mini-peeled carrots — which is a smaller carrot than the mini peeled. “Cooking carrots usually are offered in 1-pound, 2-pound and 5-pound bags,” he adds. “Juicing carrots are usually a larger carrot offered in 5-pound, 10-pound, and 25-pound bags. Organic carrots will have the same selection as conventional.”
Fresh-Link suggests stores harness health benefits with particular packs to influence sales. “Retailers should run a springtime promotion highlighting the 5-pound cellos carrots for juicing,” says Sterling.
Engage The Shopper
Incorporating recipes with displays help make a connection with the consumer. “There is a resurgence of ‘home cooking’ and ‘slow cooking,’ and retailers nationwide can capitalize on these trends,” says Curry of Curry and Company. “The continued popularity and growth of cooking shows spurred a new generation of people wanting to cook at home. Retailers can seasonally provide recipe content in circulars and digital platforms to give consumers new usage ideas.”
Cross-merchandising also helps to communicate with the consumer. “Display carrots with any product that could be included in juices and snacking, such as kale, or place with herbs and spices for cooking ideas,” suggests Sylvain Racette, vice-president sales and marketing with VegPro.
At K-VA-T Food Stores, Cox relates how mini-peeled carrots displayed with packaged salad increases volume. “It becomes an impulse item at that point,” he says.
Bolthouse Farms suggests co-merchandising a variety of carrot presentations with hummus, salsa, dips and dressings. “Everything goes with orange,” says LaPorta.
Retailers are encouraged to promote multi-meal usage from one value bag. “A family can buy a bag of baby-peeled carrots that will take part in several completely different meals,” explains Smotherman of Kern Ridge. “They can be cooked as part of a roast, steamed with other veggies, sautéed in a stir fry, used in a salad, or eaten with dip as a snack. Having so many uses and long shelf life [30 days from production] means consumers get their money’s worth from the product.”
VegPro recommends capitalizing on seasonality. “For instance, stew in autumn and winter and snacks for back-to-school season,” says Dolbec.
Younger consumers are a great target market for carrots. “Carrots are one of the few vegetables that are sweet, making it easier to get children to eat them and an easy selling point for parents,” says Smotherman of Kern Ridge. “We saw tremendous growth in the past three years in our individual serve bagged carrots that are mostly sold to be served in schools.”
“We saw tremendous growth in the past three years in our individual serve bagged carrots that are mostly sold to be served in schools.”
— Chris Smotherman, Kern Ridge
Fun marketing tactics geared toward children deliver more rings at the register. Last year, to make healthy snacking more appealing to children, Bolthouse Farms launched its Veggie Snacker product line with ranch and chili-lime seasoning. “The baby carrots were creatively and conveniently packaged in ‘pinch-and-pull’ snack bags,” explains LaPorta. “The seasoning created delicious flavor profiles with the crunch of the carrot similar to that of a chip that kids love.” These Veggie Snackers, along with other Bolthouse Farms Kids fruit tubes and smoothies, were shared with children and families through the company’s regional Snack Mob Tour, a fun and colorful mobile sampling event. “There are many ways to engage and encourage children to choose produce,” says LaPorta. “We are a proud supporter of FNV, a national campaign powered by the [Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit] Partnership for a Healthier America, promoting fruit and vegetable consumption. The campaign seeks to make fruits and vegetables cool through national advertisements, events and celebrity partnerships.”
Importance Of Partnering
Establishing a solid relationship with a retail partner helps in steady product movement. Smotherman of Kern Ridge explains the company’s recent association with Aldi.
“Aldi only purchases a few items but buys in very large volume,” he says. “It seems that the customer base is buying into the Aldi model of offering a minimal number of items and a price that is a good value to the consumer. It is very simple but appears to be very effective.”
Other retail partnerships focus on branding. “We partner with several retailers in the Southeast that capitalize on the brand recognition of Vidalia Sweet Carrots,” says Curry of Curry and Company. “Our partners take pride in the seasonality of our program, and it introduces some excitement into a category often seen as static.”
Bolthouse Farms works closely with retail partners to create unique in-store experiences that drive demand. “Much of our 100-year history has been focused on getting our carrots, and other fruit and veggie products, into shoppers’ baskets,” says LaPorta. “Carrot demand is traditionally steady and predictable, and to move the needle, you need to creatively market and merchandise.”
In 2010, Bolthouse Farms launched its first big non-traditional marketing campaign called “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food.” “This campaign likened baby carrots to America’s favorite snack foods,” explains LaPorta. “We put our carrots in vending machines, participated in Sesame Street’s Eat Brighter! campaign, and we aligned with industry partners such as PMA and FNV to promote fruit and vegetable consumption.”