Grab more impulse sales by placing eye-catching displays front and center, then adding secondary displays at key spots.
Originally printed in the June 2022 issue of Produce Business.
Stone fruit is produced by some of the world’s most sophisticated produce grower-packers-shippers.
As national produce departments roll toward the peak season for cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and pluots, retailers can take advantage of key merchandising services to encourage consumers to choose stone fruit from retail shelves.
Merchandising tools involve recommendations for the location and arrangement of displays. But grower-shippers boost these efforts with informative, practical, modern, attractive packaging, and digital links to learn more about the source and the product.
KEEP CHERRIES VISIBLE
At Vancouver, Canada-based Oppy, a leading grower, marketer and distributor of fresh produce from around the world, Audrey Desnoyers offers numerous options to boost stone fruit sales.
To boost cherry sales in summer or winter, large displays up front, with superior visibility for in-store shoppers, are best, says Desnoyers, Oppy’s director of business development and key account management.
“As cherries continue to be an impulse purchase, we aim to catch the eye of the consumer. End aisle and lobby displays are prime real estate for cherries — even positioning with occasion-related items helps shoppers envision how to best use them and prompt sales,” Desnoyers adds. For example, displaying cherries with picnic items such as cheese, crackers and pre-made salads, or barbecue items like buns, condiments and chips, can ignite a purchase.
As online shopping continues to increase, it’s important for retailers to highlight when cherries are in-season and available on their platforms, Desnoyers emphasizes. Unlike walking into brick-and-mortar stores to see those front-and-center displays, retailers who tout cherries are available, and here only for a limited time, will achieve better online sales.
Another opportunity for retailers is to highlight women-owned businesses, Desnoyers adds. “Our cherries in The Dalles, OR, are grown under the watchful eye of owner and president Brenda Thomas, who grew up on the family farm and created a work ethic, understanding and love for the business. Displaying POS (point-of-sale materials) to share this story can resonate with shoppers who are looking to channel their dollars in this way.”
Oppy has social media content lists available for retailers with high-quality images and messages to help spread the word of the season and educate their shoppers.
To educate customers about summer fruit varieties, Desnoyers says Oppy works with retailers to determine what is the best way to educate their specific shoppers — whether through point-of-sale materials at display, blog posts or social media, — and what message they are looking to convey.
“One of our key messages is that Orchard View Cherries is 100% cherries — with total focus on this one, seasonal crop. We get one shot at it a year, so we do everything to ensure it’s done right.”
Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, CA, handles a variety of organic fruit, but “blueberries are our MO,” according to Stephen Paul, the firm’s stone fruit, fall fruit and blueberry category director. But to move stone fruit, Paul suggests “merchandising is extremely important. We work on merchandising contests, customer by customer. There are great opportunities with that.”
Paul emphasizes the importance of sharing product information with customers so the retailers can educate their consumers.
Homegrown Organic Farms is an employee-owned company that’s part of a family of companies operating in many areas of the agricultural industry. It represents over 100 different farmers producing more than 7,000 acres in organic farming.
USE SECONDARY DISPLAYS
Beyond shipping apples and pears, Sage Fruit Company, Yakima, WA, ships dark sweet and Rainier cherries, during the summer, as well as apricots, all of which are seasonal stone fruits in the Pacific Northwest, according to Kevin Steiner, director of business development. Sage Fruit growers farm several thousand acres of orchards throughout the state of Washington, as well as parts of Oregon.
Visibility is the key for cherry sales, both in person and online, Steiner says, and secondary displays, category size, location and ad frequency all play key roles in higher cherry sales, too. “One out of four Americans buy cherries each year, with 72% of purchases being impulse buys. Retailers can capitalize on that by setting up a secondary display at the front door or near the checkout lanes.” Secondary displays drive 13.6% more lift in volume, and 22.4% more in dollars, he adds.
According to Steiner, Sage Fruit has cherry-specific, point-of-purchase bins available at no cost to all retail and wholesale partners.
“Keeping cherries in front of consumers for the duration of the season is the best way to maintain sales, whether it be in circular ads or multiple locations throughout the store. Promotions drive increased sales, while simple price drops fail to draw as much attention.”
“Cross-merchandising with other recipe and usage ideas, such as oatmeal, meat marinades, sauces, jams, salsas, and pies prove that cherries are an expandable category.”
MAKE IT POP
Ryan Easter, who handles national sales for Mountain View Fruit in Reedley, CA, said his company has “the most complete POP (point-of-purchase) offering for California stone fruit.” These materials build “eye-catching displays, which make a huge difference. It’s a must-have. You just can’t put the fruit out (with no promotion) and leave sales on the table.”
Mountain View’s POP offerings include kits, bins, information cards and shelf talkers. “Retailers, a lot of times, look to us for POP. They look at us as the experts.”
Mountain View ships the Summeripe label, which features mainline items such as yellow and white peaches and yellow and white nectarines. Also, there are Summeripe red and black plums and organic and conventional apricots.
As seasonal production changes, and retailers pare back displays of apples, pears and citrus, “now, stone fruit finds its way to the end cap. That’s a heavy presence in late spring and early summer,” says Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Vernon, CA.
Melissa’s primary scope on stone fruit is on premium cherry varieties, as well as larger fruit and organic stone fruit. It offers conventional as well, “but our niche is organic peaches, nectarines and plums.”
In merchandising the category, “All tree fruit merchandises well together. They have similar shelf lives,” Schueller notes.
NEW MARKETING APPROACH
This year, Prima Wawona, a fully integrated California stone fruit company, boosted its marketing efforts with a major rebranding update of its logo, a new website launch and new packaging.
Prima claims to be the industry’s largest stone fruit grower and is probably the largest in organic stone fruit. The company also indicates it offers North America’s largest diversified selection of conventional and organic stone fruit. This comes from 15,000 acres of orchards located in many Central Valley regions.
Based in Cutler, CA, the firm ships peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots from April through October.
This year, there are 2,100 new acres of stone fruit plantings that will mature and enter production over the next four years. The acreage was available because the firm “took out almonds to focus on what we do best,” said Lisa (Davis) Corrigan, Prima Wawona’s director of marketing.
To find the best fruit options within Prima Wawona fruit merchandising offerings, Corrigan points to a Partner Portal, which opened April 27 on the new Prima Wawona website, prima.com. The Partner Portal allows retailers to choose their program, through options such as varieties, seasonal availability, pack style and packaging. Merchandising tips and proper in-store handling techniques are also presented. This is available as a printed book as well as electronically.
Prima Wawona’s new marketing effort also involves new bins that launched this spring, as well as point-of-sale marketing materials. QR codes are strategically applied throughout. Even PLU labels were redesigned coming into this 2022 season, and the brand has enhanced profiles on Instagram and TikTok.
Corrigan says Prima Wawona is offering “a couple different in-store promotions, such as Prima Peach Challenge.” The firm also offers many different packaging and carton options, including a new pouch bag.
Schueller says Melissa’s is known for its diverse, sophisticated packaging, which includes clamshell cherries and clamshells featuring conventional and organic apricots. However, Melissa’s stone fruit packaging options includes bulk, he adds. “We do it all.”
Mountain View Fruit’s Easter says his firm offers “a lot of package options.” Some of these are one- and two-layer trays, euro packs and a popular 2-pound pouch. “A 4-pound box is another option. “We carry club packs with jumbo larger sizes, and bags with smaller sizes for kids.”
Signage and promotions are a must-have. ‘You just can’t put the fruit out and leave sales on the table.’— Ryan Easter, Mountain View Fruit
This summer, Oppy will be promoting cherries in traditional pouch bags along with 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-pound top seal options. “Pouch bags are the mainstream consumer pack, but top seal is really gaining momentum,” Desnoyers says.
Sage Fruit’s Steiner says for cherries, bags continue to be the primary pack style requested by retail partners, “though the industry has migrated away from the standard Ziploc and are now packing into pouch bags. Clamshells are available, but are used less frequently, and when they are, it is usually driven by merchandising needs and/or the lack of ability to use a scale, as they are sold by the unit, instead of per pound. As retailers work to move away from plastic, we have seen an increase in requests for a top seal option — plastic or cardboard punnet with a resealable top film.”
“Apricots, on the other hand, are generally packed as a bulk item,” he adds, “although we do have a few customers who prefer a clamshell option. Clamshells provide a little more protection from bruising on the retail shelves.”
With increased consumer concerns over single-use plastic, Sage Fruit is actively seeking alternative solutions to traditional packaging. “As a trial on a new, sustainable package, we will be packing our organic cherries into a Bio-Able Solutions pouch bag,” Steiner says. “Bio-Able Solutions directly addresses plastic and food packaging sustainability. Enabled with bio-assimilation technology, these new bags are 100% recyclable and uniquely formulated to fully degrade in both marine and terrestrial environments, leaving behind zero micro-plastic waste.”
• • •
Stone Fruit Breeding Advances Varieties, But Differentiation Moot
While the apple industry has struggled to find retail shelf space for new proprietary varieties, the stone fruit industry has so many good, but similar, options, suppliers typically don’t try to differentiate varieties.
Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Vernon, CA, for example, changes plum varieties “every two or three weeks, then it’s on to a different variety to guarantee the best-tasting fruit,” says Robert Schueller, director of public relations. “Once they ripen on the tree, they’re all harvested at once. We have two dozen varieties that are harvested from mid-June into October.” That is the longest season in the stone fruit category. Cherries are the shortest season, he added.
“We don’t market every variety by name. Tree fruit is a little different than grapes,” Schueller added. “There are so many varieties, we don’t do that many labels, unless it’s totally different. That would be totally out of control.”
Ryan Easter, national salesman at Mountain View Fruit, Reedley, CA, also notes in the stone fruit business, “different varieties are harvested and packed every week or two. So, in a six-month shipping period, there are quite a few varieties. It’s not like apples, which have different varieties.”
In peaches, it’s general knowledge there are yellow or white varieties. Still, “some consumers and retailers pick their favorites at different times as standout varieties. Mostly on yellow peaches.”