(Dec. 12) Carrots ranked No. 6 in sales in the vegetable category and accounted for 2.9 percent of produce sales during 2004, according to the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del. Per capita consumption stands at 11 to 12 pounds, says Phil Gruszka, vice president of marketing for Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif.

Consider these suggestions to capture a hefty share of the category.

EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

Almost 80 percent of the carrots that Grimmway Farms offers are outside the realm of standard cello bags of whole carrots. Grimmway and suppliers like Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, Calif., and Wm. Bolthouse Farms Inc., Bakersfield, offer numerous shapes and sizes, including chips, coins, shreds, sticks and the increasingly popular baby peeled variety.

Baby peeled carrots are the best-selling carrot sold at the single Ron’s Castle Foods in Eau Claire, Wis., says Randi Schultze, grocery, produce and advertising manager. The store carries about a dozen stock-keeping units of baby varieties and three SKUs of traditional carrots in a refrigerated display case 8 feet wide with four shelves.

GET THE WORD OUT

Ron’s Castle Foods advertises at least one variety nearly every week, Schultze says. The 1-pound bag of baby carrots typically priced at 2 for $3 goes for 79 to 99 cents on ad during a buy one, get one free promotion. The store also conducts in-store demos during the local Energize Eau Claire County campaign to promote healthful living.

Ads are especially critical for special occasions, says John Burton, sales manager at Peter Rabbit Farms, adding, “People love to eat carrots during the holidays.”

Grimmway is experiencing great success with its SpongeBob SquarePants promotion that features the popular cartoon characters on its packaging, Gruszka says.

POUR ON THE TLC

It’s important to maintain the cold chain for carrots, but especially for baby peeled varieties since they are more vulnerable to warmth, Burton says. Carrots may dry out when refrigerated but can quickly rehydrate themselves with water, he adds. Peter Rabbit packs its carrots with water in the bag to maintain freshness.

Keep carrots at about 34 F (1.1 C), suggests Andrew Bianchi, sales manager at Kern Ridge Growers LLC, Arvin, Calif. Maintain a relative humidity of 98 percent to 100 percent.