I used to think the thousands that attended our high school football games were there to, you know, watch the game. I was wrong.

The game is more than a set of downs

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle

After graduation, in watching the games from the stands, I noticed that, with the exception of a few intent fathers, all those kids were there to socialize and were hardly watching the game at all.

Now that the NFL playoffs and, of course, the Super Bowl, are upon us, it has similarly occurred to me that these great gridiron contests for many viewers mean little more than those that crowded into little District 12 Stadium all those years ago.

The Super Bowl has become more of a social event and a party than a championship football game. Complete with plenty of food, drink and a keen interest in halftime shows and (especially) the unique commercials on which companies spend a king’s ransom. The game itself is secondary. It has been overshadowed by the hype.

That’s sad for the few of us who like to think those third-down plays mean something. But, from the retailer perspective, the Super Bowl is clearly on par with any other major U.S. holiday.
Goal-line stand

For those hosting a Super Bowl get-together, large or small, the produce aisle is one place that will be shopped quite heavy. Huddle up. It’s time to get ready.

Encroachment on avocados: The linear space for these should be given top priority. The time is ripe to tie in chips and other condiments to make the suggestive sale as obvious as possible.

Speaking of ripe, most customers will be looking for fruit that is just starting to give. Having several degrees of ripeness available will assure maximum sales yardage.

Salsa displays will move product too. Create the chile-tomato-garlic-onion combination, end-around sweep to prime the sales. Some chains even sell overwrapped kits of these essentials that move quite nicely.

Vegetable sales will spike too. All those vegetable tray items, such as grape tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, squash and more, are perfect for snacking on during the big game. Don’t fumble the opportunity to highlight the refrigerated dips and dressings to go with them.

Keep the drive alive

Post suggestive recipes for anything that might work for the tailgating minds: Small, twice-baked potatoes instead of deviled eggs. Or display fruit trays complete with melon chunks, pineapple, bananas and kiwifruit.

Upon further review

It pays to decorate your department to match the event. Hang associated team banners, colored streamers, or inflatable footballs from the ceiling to make it clear the produce department is the place to buy party essentials. Also attach point-of-sale material to related displays to properly kick things off.

And, as for overtime? It might be necessary but hey, let’s try to avoid it.

On two, on two. Ready? Break!

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. E-mail armandlobato@comcast.net.

Have suggestions for creative ways to market produce to Super Bowl fans? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.