Using a mixture of different sizes and pack styles in well-organized presentations is critical.
Originally printed in the October 2023 issue of Produce Business.
Although artichokes have real virtues, many retailers still limit their investment in them, but some effort can make them a bigger seller.
Over the past 15 years, demand for the larger artichokes has grown, mainly dictated by retail, according to Ryan Kelly, vice president and general manager at Boutonnet and Laguna Mist Farms, Salinas, CA.
On average, the current annual varieties grown will yield 65 to 70 of the total bud weight in larger sizes — 12s, 18s and 24 count/box, he explains, although each shipper has its own carton/artichoke packs of different counts and sizes per box.
“The increased demand for those sizes has resulted in a decreased demand and price point for the smaller sizes,” Kelly says. “This has caused more market-based culling of the smaller sizes.”
As it works with the evolving market, the California Artichoke Advisory Board, Castroville, CA, has shifted more of its focus from marketing to research on growing practices, says Judy Burditt, California artichoke board manager. Still, it continues to work on getting consumers more interested in artichokes and their various uses.
Projects to promote sales included hiring a contractor to increase the board’s digital marketing on Facebook and Instagram, she says.
Burditt says the board also sponsors the Artichoke Festival and hosts an informational booth and workshops.
Zeke Kreitner, chief produce officer, at Seasons, Flushing, NY, with stores in the New York metropolitan area, says he stocks artichokes year-round, but sales vary throughout the year.
“I do sell more by the holidays,” he says.
Philip Penta, managing director at 3 Guys from Brooklyn, NY, says holiday occasions, particularly in the spring, and some ethnic groups’ demand have been the basis for stronger artichoke sales. Sales there have dropped slightly, as the ethnic population of the 3 Guys neighborhood has changed and included fewer Italians and Greeks. However, the seasonal business remains strong, and he’s considering ways to boost artichoke sales.
“We’re thinking about using QR codes and linking to a site with recipes,” he says.
Wayne Dilegge, buyer at Lancaster Foods, Jessup, MD, says the seasonal nature of artichoke sales, as they stand now, is critical to note.
“It’s not a staple,” he says. “If you walk the stores around Easter and Thanksgiving, the shelves are full.”
One approach to selling more artichokes is to treat them as a specialty item — recognizing their seasonality, but using those events to springboard them as appropriate for more occasions. The seasonal occasion functions as the foundation for growth in merchandising and, with some education and encouragement, sales.
Produce departments ready to take sales to the next level need to level up, literally.
Lori Bigras, communications manager for Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, CA, says using a mixture of different artichoke sizes and pack styles in well-organized presentations is critical to artichoke merchandising.
“People like variety. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase other products than just the ones people might typically buy,” she says.
To maximize artichoke potential, retailers should consider visibility, and maintain prominent displays that catch shoppers’ attention, particularly outside the typical holiday periods.
Peter Georgalos, product manager/salesman at D’Arrigo Brothers of California, Salinas, CA, suggests a basis of merchandise should be “large displays using contrasting bright-colored vegetables.”
Artichoke displays should add educational signage, Georgalos adds, such as nutritional information and recipes.
D’Arrigo offers an array of recipes on its website, including Stuffed Artichokes with Cauliflower Rice, Broccoli Rabe and Artichoke Baked Ziti. The California Artichoke Advisory Board offers recipes ranging from Artichoke Frittatas to Baby Artichokes, Ham and Fettuccini to Artichokes with Light Honey Mustard Dip. It also provides recipes through its social media initiatives. The Ocean Mist website recently featured a recipe for Stuffed Artichokes with Spicy Italian Sausage and Sweet Red Pepper.
The board also underscores the nutritional value of artichokes in today’s diet, something that should be shared with consumers. One large artichoke weighs in at only 25 calories and offers 170 milligrams of potassium, 10% of the daily requirement of vitamin C, and significant amounts of folate, magnesium and dietary fiber, the board’s website states.
Bigras suggests retailers offer usage ideas on selecting, storing, handling, prepping and cooking with artichokes via “collateral or signage that scans to microsites or videos while shoppers are standing right there at the display. Consider recipe cards, POS materials, or coupons that they can redeem instantly,” she says.
Kelly, of Boutonnet and Laguna Mist Farms, agrees about the importance of recipes and nutritional information, particularly antioxidant information.
“Artichokes are one of the best sources of antioxidants available,” he says.
MAKE INSPIRING DISPLAYS
First impressions are important when it comes to produce department shoppers, and display size is crucial to getting that first look, but it needs to be an attractive first look.
“It goes without saying that the product needs to look fresh and beautiful,” says Ocean Mist’s Bigras. “A picture is worth a thousand words. Make your display inspiring and memorable.”
“No one wants to look at a half-full display,” she says. “It translates as old, and we all know ‘old’ in fresh produce means stale and nearing expiration.”
Once big and beautiful, she adds, maintain rotation and stocking to invite more purchases.
Kelly emphasizes the importance of handling. “Properly cool and store the product first and foremost,” he says. “Many retailers do not properly display the product and allow it to get dehydrated. This can lead to a poor eating experience and less return business.”
Combining big displays with high-impact graphics enhances the product’s ability to catch the eyes of passing shoppers, says Bigras.
“Displays with a combination of colors and textures from different products are fun and exciting to look at,” she says. “And as the saying ‘eye appeal is buy appeal’ goes, if it’s exciting enough to get consumers to pause and come check out, there’s a greater likelihood they’re going to put something from the display in their basket.”
Even before consumers get to the store, social media platforms can help put artichoke purchasing on their agenda.
Social media platforms are “one of the main conduits we in the fresh segment have to dialog directly with consumers,” says Bigras.
Social media can be a way to entice them with a promotion. She says to consider having signage suggesting consumers take selfies in front of the display and tag the retailer on social media.
“Our experience has demonstrated that centrally located displays, ideally in the front of the store/produce department, typically get optimum exposure and great results,” says Bigras. “However, some retailers view artichokes largely as impulse buys with their customer base, and see better results placing their artichoke displays at the end of aisles. Either location, how you set up, cross-merchandise, and maintain the display will probably offer more influence than the actual location.”
Effective cross-merchandising should be considered both in terms of the items that pair well together, but also what looks good together. Georgalos, of D’Arrigo Brothers, says dressings and dips are immediate products that can generate cross-merchandising benefits.
Bigras recommends adding other items, whether fresh produce or shelf-stable items, to create more colors and textures, “but it also plants the seed of usage ideas for the consumer, while providing the convenience of having these other complementary products at their fingertips.”
Including brightly colored lemons in artichoke displays is great for color blocking, but it’s also an item that is typically used with many preparation methods of fresh artichokes, she adds.
“Other items that are a natural fit to have in an artichoke display are things like mayonnaise, dips, prepared sauces, olive oil and breadcrumbs. Make it a true one-stop shopping experience.”
Produce departments can advance artichoke sales by complementing conspicuous displays with appropriate marketing.
“Artichokes are terrific advertising items and create interest, excitement and purchase intent when run in circular promotions,” says Bigras. “Online promotions are an excellent fit for artichokes as well, as they can include selection, preparation, and cooking information to help demystify the how-to’s of artichokes.
“Consumers can be a bit intimidated by artichokes, so the more information on how simple they actually are to prepare, and how delicious and fun they are to eat, will help encourage consumers to buy/try them.”
Ocean Mist Farms has a full tool kit of POS, display bins, videos, preparation suggestions, cooking tips and recipes at allaboutartichokes.com.
In the end, getting consumers’ eyes on artichokes week in and week out is critical to tempt those who don’t regularly buy them.
“Building prominent, eye-catching displays in well-trafficked areas of the produce department is key,” Bigras says. “If consumers can’t find artichokes, they can’t purchase them.”
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Consider Merchandising Organic Artichokes
Food retailers who experience some demand for organic produce, in general, should consider merchandising organic artichokes, says Lori Bigras, communications manager for Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, CA.
“If you have an organic offering along with your conventional product, there’s no reason not to showcase both,” she says. “Depending on the store and its customer demographic, perhaps make one segment — organic or conventional — slightly bigger than the other part of the display.”
And be sure to stock organic artichokes in the organic section of the produce department, as well, “so no one misses them.”