Vons/Pavilions touts local produceRANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. — The Vons/Pavilions division of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Co. took advantage of the Memorial Day weekend to introduce shoppers to its locally grown produce.

Seventeen homegrown items were merchandised in a large, outdoor farm-themed display in front of a Pavilions supermarket.

The company designed the displays to support California growers, said Rick Cruz, manager of division operations for produce for Vons/Pavilions.

Cruz staged similar events in Southern California last summer with good results.

“We had a lot of enthusiastic customers and a lot of excitement,” he said.

The California Avocado Commission, its avocado character (played by Chris Henry, director of sales and marketing for Giumarra Agricom’s Escondido, Calif., office) and two Giumarra growers, Jaime and Ricardo Serrato, Pauma Valley, Calif., were among those who supported the promotion.

“We wanted to bring attention to the local avocados in the area,” Jaime Serrato said.

Not all Vons/Pavilions stores have the space to build large, outdoor displays, Cruz said, but all stores stock the same items as those featured during the special promotion.

These events are especially effective during the start of the season, Cruz said.

“There’s a lot of frenzied buying going on right now with soft fruit,” he said.

Deals on California corn and cherries also were looking especially good in late May, Cruz said.

Cruz kept busy throughout the day explaining to shoppers that an aprium is a cross between a plum and an apricot and encouraging consumers to sample fresh-picked, homegrown produce.

“If we can get them to taste it, we’ll make a sale,” he said.

The company plans similar promotions at other Southern California locations for the Fourth of July and Labor Day, Cruz said.

The Fourth of July promotion is planned for San Diego’s Liberty Station district.