Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

Herbal essence.

That isn’t a reference to the shampoo, although it’s interesting that many manufacturers are quick to point out that they use “real” lemons, ginger and similar items in their products. Everyone, it seems, is eager to jump on the fresh produce wagon.

The herb category is one that has grown quietly throughout the past couple decades. At one time if a produce department offered a token amount of herbs, that was about what any customer could expect.

However, in many stores I browse when I travel now I’ve noticed how much the herb sections have expanded, with greater vertical and linear footage.

Unfortunately, many times the offerings are unappealing: wilted, chill-damaged or simply out of stock.

Many a produce manager, even a store manager or produce supervisor, will dismiss this faux pas.

“The produce department is in great shape today,” the report may read. “With only minor infractions seen, such as mirrors need wiped down and the herb section needs replenished.”

If the herb section is overlooked, why is it considered a minor issue?

Your customers may not say much, but their actions always speak louder than words, don’t they? When you have only overripe bananas or wrinkled avocados on display, most customers just walk on by without saying a word. And without buying anything either.

Herbs are viewed by your customers in ways that yesteryear’s produce managers could not have possibly imagined.

Fresh herbs are sought for their nutritional value. According to, there are numerous health benefits associated with increased herb consumption.

But more important than this is the fact that your customers are consuming more herbs for variety, texture and flavor. Think of how the foodservice industry incorporates herbs into their menus: arugula salads, blended into spring mix salads, in soups and stews, in vegetable and fruit salads, as flavor enhancers, and even as a distinct addition to many drinks, for just a few examples.

Are you committed to making the herb section one that your customers can count on when they shop your department? Consistent herb attention is not only for Thanksgiving or Easter; not only for boosting the mint supply for the Kentucky Derby (for flavoring mint juleps).

It’s for your normal, everyday shopper.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.