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

My kids often poke fun at me with many topics saying things like “Is that how it was, back in the day?”

Well, back in the day in regard to fresh produce, January was a low sales month. That was pre-Chilean grapes and other imports that today help stock a produce department, year-round. Yesterday’s “out of season” berries, melons, stone fruit and cherries are now commonplace.

As growers worldwide fill yesterday’s crop gaps with extended seasons or other improved growing and storage technologies, a month like January is really just another month to promote fresh fruits and vegetables.

However, January is different. This is the time, which after weeks or years of personal neglect, many people resolve to eat healthfully.

English philosopher Francis Bacon once said, “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”

January is all about making the most of weight-loss resolution opportunities. If all you plan to do is the status quo, you may miss out on building your produce sales. On the other hand, if you charge head-on, you can make the best of the opportunities before you.

First, treat each ad or weekend preparation like you are preparing for a major holiday. You just experienced such a period, so this shouldn’t be all that different. Your customers will be thinking what to buy to help support their weight-loss regiment. Expand displays with spillovers and use contrasting color breaks to attract attention and slow the customer down.

Second, consider adding a starburst mini sign to the display, and shout out the calories per serving. Customers will be thinking calories as they shop. Help them out, while driving extra sales using this simple method.

Additionally, engage as many sampling techniques as possible, be it with your store’s demo team, with stand-alone passive sampling trays or simply directing your crew to offer samples as they interact with customers. All the while, talk up the flavor-with-low-calorie benefits fresh produce has to offer.

Third, realize that January goes beyond health-focused shoppers. This is also one of the heaviest months for entertainment. People routinely gather to watch their favorite winter sports teams. Create sales opportunities with large avocado displays, for example.

Offer a range of ripeness levels to appeal to multiple uses; firm (or breaking) for sandwiches and a little riper for guacamole. Load up on lemons and limes for drinks. Don’t forget to expand on things like dips, dressings and vegetable trays too. I bet you can think of even more possibilities.

All this opportunity, and in January, no less.

Here are a few pertinent final words from Mark McCormack, former CEO of New York-based International Management Group.

“In our business, the windows of opportunities open and close with dazzling rapidity … I constantly have to remind people to seize the moment.”

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.

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