Natural Foods Merchandiser

Creativity helps fruit's declining sales spring into action

Produce Perspectives

People are eating more fresh fruit than ever before. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, the average American ate a whopping 101.97 pounds of fresh fruit in 2004. But do you know exactly where the increase occurred? Here's the breakdown:

  • Strawberries, apples, grapefruit, cranberries, cherries, blueberries, grapes, avocados, kiwi, papaya and tangerines/tangelos all increased sales in 2004.
  • Plums, prunes, pineapples, peaches, nectarines, mangos, limes, lemons, oranges and bananas had declining sales, according to the ERS. This list caught me off guard. Who would ever guess bananas are less popular? I mean, they're the No. 1 selling fruit in America, right? While this remains true, banana sales have declined for two years in a row.
  • Oranges took the biggest hit, declining by 10 percent. I'm sure weather caused some of the decline, but it could also relate to a change in consumer attitudes toward this fruit mainstay. If you think about it, the choices in available produce have increased dramatically over the past 20 years.

With so many choices, some items have lost their thrill. So when the thrill is gone, you work on getting it back.

Orange you glad?
Let's start with oranges. We all know that navels in February, March and April are as ripe and sweet as they are going to be. With the exception of the Satsuma mandarin, I don't know of anything easier to peel. And kids love them.

Why not make an "Easy to Eat" display with a pile of navels and some of the fruits that appear on the increasing-sales list, like strawberries and kiwi? They can easily be eaten alone or combined for a fruit salad. And of course the brown, red and orange colors in the display fulfill one of my merchandising rules: The display must draw the customer in.

Or stack a case of oranges next to your frozen cranberries, and promote cranberry-orange juice. If you've never had this juice combination, you and your customers are in for a taste treat. I know you're saying to yourself, "I thought you weren't supposed to juice navels." Well, that's true if you let your juice sit for a while, because it separates, but if you drink it right away, it's perfectly fine.

It's common to use lemons with fish so they're often near the fish counter, but what about oranges? Mild fish varieties do very well with an orange marinade.

Go bananas
Since banana sales have also declined slightly, why not put a bowl of them, along with some oranges, on the deli counter to sell? They'd complement the orange-banana muffins your bakery concocted.

Put a secondary display of bananas in your cereal aisle and increase your banana sales. I have tried this with several clients and had great results.

You can also look at the ERS fruit sales figures as an opportunity to build upon the success of an item whose sales are increasing. Take grapefruit, for instance. You could give marsh ruby or white grapefruits another shot, even though they didn't move the last time you tried them. Or if you're really adventurous, bring in some pomelos—you know, those giant citrus that grow up to a foot in diameter and weigh up to 25 pounds each. Of course you probably wouldn't want to carry them that big.

Pomelos, also known as Chinese grapefruits, are an interesting fruit. You may need to try more than one box, though, because their thick skins can range anywhere from green to light yellow, with an almost meaty flesh that ranges from white to pink. The flavor can vary as much as the outer skin—sweet like a Rio red grapefruit or sort of sour-tart like some white grapefruits. You'll surely notice the thickness of the white rind, but don't let that deter you from this delicious fruit. Once you decide to carry pomelos, consider tying your display to this Chinese New Year. Pomelos are a sign of prosperity and good fortune. May they bring good fortune to your future produce sales.

Mark Mulcahy runs Organic Options, an organic education and produce consulting firm. Contact him at 707.939.8355 or [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 2/p. 30

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