Let’s Get The Post-Pandemic Party Started With Produce Snacks

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

Originally printed in the March 2022 issue of Produce Business.

As the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, everyone is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Normal activities are gaining momentum across the country and the social part of our lives will begin to re-emerge. More frequent social gatherings, as well as key celebrations, holidays and the advent of spring’s warmer weather offer the fresh produce industry an opportunity to stimulate the consumption of fresh items at these gatherings. Parties and celebrations give the produce department opportunities to promote items that fit into the snacking category.

Upper management tends to take these opportunities to promote items elsewhere in the store, especially those in the “salty snack category,” and ignores the opportunity available from fresh produce. This prevalent attitude once again proves that “they just don’t get it!”

To take advantage of these upcoming gatherings and celebrations, prepare a list of items in the produce department that lend themselves to snacking. Many of these items are obvious, but examine the entire department for items that can be added to the list. Use your imagination to picture how each item might fit into the snacking category. Start with each major group — vegetables and fruit — then, after reviewing fresh items, look at the ancillary items in the department that may also be used in your snacking strategy.

As you examine the vegetable category, don’t be preoccupied with one of the most popular items promoted by the industry for these types of occasions, avocados, which have enjoyed a substantial promotional push by the producers to make it a key item. While avocados are certainly very important, they have enjoyed the majority of the promotional activity and may have overshadowed other items in the department. In the vegetable category, there are the traditionally popular items, such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes. But why stop there? You can include jicama (sticks), mushrooms, grape and cherry tomatoes, sugar peas, snap peas, and asparagus tips to add color and variety to your offering. And don’t forget using peppers (regular and hot), onions, and tomatoes to prepare fresh salsa that can complement guacamole to utilize groceries’ “salty snacks.” All of these items can be combined to make attractive, as well as nutritious, vegetable trays to adorn a party table.

Parties and celebrations give the produce department opportunities to promote items that fit into the snacking category.

The fruit category also offers many opportunities, but they may be harder to recognize. There are the classic apple slices and strawberries (dipped and regular); cantaloupe and other melons in bite-sized chunks; fresh grapes of all colors; and chunk pineapple and mango — all will make a colorful and sweet addition to a table. Another opportunity would be to use the wide variety of citrus items to prepare fresh juices to use as a stand-alone beverage or mixes with other ingredients.

Another unique addition to your party table would be the preparing of several varieties of pears with cheeses that complement various varieties of wine. In fact, this could become a complete celebration on its own as a wine tasting, with accompanying pears and cheeses to enhance the flavor and enjoyment of the wine.

When you combine all of these fresh items with the various prepared dips, dressings and complementary mixes, you can prepare a true banquet of fresh produce delights that will be the hit of any gathering. As you examine this category, you will find that there are an abundant number of items that can be used to fully develop the menu of your “snackable” produce Items.

The innovative retailer will use opportunities around key food holidays and celebrations to offer and feature snack type items periodically in their weekly promotions. Not only do these snackable produce items provide sweet, savory and crunchy alternatives to the more traditional salty snacks, they also provide nutrition and help to reinforce the body’s immune system. The consumer wants to return to a more normal life, including more get-togethers and celebrations, and a wide variety of fresh produce is ready to get the party started.

Don Harris is a 41-year veteran of the produce industry, with most of that time spent in retail. He worked in every aspect of the industry, from “field-to-fork” in both the conventional and organic arenas. Harris is presently consulting. Comments can be directed to editor@producebusiness.com.