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

I just finished the last slice of pie when a lean, muscular Rusty Blade lowered himself via rope from my desk hutch. Rusty, as regular readers of The Packer know, is the imaginary, miniature produce manager who visits me on occasion.

Me: Hey Rusty, here we are again, talking at year’s end.

Rusty: Or New Year’s beginning. Depends on your point of view. Are you eating … again?

Me: Just a treat. You here to talk about New Year’s produce merchandising?

Rusty: In a minute. Let’s talk about you, pudge-pot. What are those you’re wearing, 36-inch pants?

Me: Thirty-six? Ah, those were the days. These are 38’s, and they’re tight! Can’t bring myself to ...

Rusty: To take the 40-inch leap? Whaddya weigh, 225? That would be just fine if you were 6-10, man. How you gonna talk produce and weight loss if you’re less than a pillar of example?Now that I’ve mentioned it, you are starting to look like a pillar —

Me: Funny. You know my life — sitting in cars, office, warehouses, in lobbies, lunch meetings, and it’s hard to exercise with this trick back —

Rusty: Oh, listen to you! When you were in the stores you had all those excuses and more.

Me: Well when you work produce you’re constantly on the move. With constant lifting and brisk walking, who needs a gym?

Rusty: Not to mention, what do produce people graze on all day, chocolate? Fresh produce! Even with a hearty appetite at the end of the day, we have a head start.

Me: I sense that’s a good start to New Year’s marketing.

Rusty: The whole, weight-loss resolution doesn’t have to be boring. I’ve arranged for our in-house sampling staff to aggressively feature many of the flavorful produce items we have to offer.

Me: You mean, not just build a big grapefruit display?

Rusty: That’s helps, but no, we’re going to advertise hard and expand all displays starting in early January. The month’s sales have gone from a zero to a hero, so to speak. The trick is to excite people about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and with a little perseverance they will stick to eating healthy.

Me: Well listen to you, don’t you sound like a produce homer.

Rusty: Just doing my part to get people heart-healthy. OK, and increase produce sales too. I think it’s time for you, aisle boy, to drop a little weight. Can you stand a challenge?

Me: Sure. Let’s make it, uh, 10 pounds the next time we chat in March?

Rusty: Dude. Let’s make it 20. I’ll help. Here, have a banana.

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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