Promotion is the key to success in the retail berry patch.

“As we head into summer, it’s important for retailers to promote strawberries the week before, during and after holidays to drive category growth,” said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville.

“We’ll have a lot of crop available until July with some great opportunities to promote,” Christian said. “The flavor and quality are exceptional.”

Strawberry commission research continues to show that fresh strawberries are an impulse purchase, with 52% of consumers deciding to buy berries once they’re shopping at the store. Berry lovers will even switch stores to take advantage of a strawberry ad.

Larger strawberry displays and multiple packaging options also increase total produce sales and profit, the commission has found. Stores sell 17% more strawberries when customers are given a choice, and more than a third of heavy strawberry users will switch stores if their favorite berries are out of stock.

A 2009 strawberry commission study showed that the average basket ring is 77% higher when strawberries are purchased, and that 62% of households buy strawberries, regardless of their income level, age and lifestyle.

Growers and shippers of other berries recommend offering customers a full berry patch featuring different flavors, colors and shapes to draw customers to the retail produce department.

“Having strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries all at one time and featuring each one when they’re in peak season has been a good draw for consumers and helps produce departments increase sales,” said Doug Perkins, managing director of HBF International Inc., Sheridan, Ore.

Jan VanDriessche, national marketing director of North Bay Produce, a grower-owned marketing and distribution co-op in Traverse City, Michigan, said breaking up the display with bands of colors, instead of organizing it by berry, is another way to attract attention.

Others recommend cross-merchandising berries with packaged crepes, premium ice cream and cheesecake. Related tools such as strawberry hullers, colanders, packages of pectin and other jam-making supplies also contribute to an eye-catching display.

“Merchandise strawberries year-round in primary display locations to leverage the buying power of strawberry consumers,” Christian said.

As for organics, veteran grower Peter Oill, sales manager of Pacific Ridge Farms LLC, Oxnard, Calif. said pricing organic berries fairly will guarantee more sales.

“Organic makes up 1% to 3% of the produce business and is seen as a necessary evil by a lot of retailers,” Oill said.

“Some stores do a really good job pricing it competitively with conventional to make it available to people.”