Natural Foods Merchandiser

Produce and Deli Can Partner Profitably

Produce Perspectives

What if I told you I knew of a partner in your store who could help you generate more sales and have more fun in your produce department? Wouldn?t you be interested in finding out who that partner was? It?s not a secret—it?s a department that you work alongside every day. It?s your deli, aka the prepared foods department.

I know, I know, you produce managers are saying to yourselves, ?You mean those guys who never take the produce we want to give them?? Well, the deli managers are saying to themselves, ?You mean those guys who are always trying to dump rotten produce on us??

There?s more to it than that, and you both know it.

Stop, look and listen. You will never develop a good, strong partnership if you don?t start by taking the time to look at what hasn?t worked in the past between your departments, and why. Start by agreeing to stop old behaviors.

Produce people: Think ahead. You know when you?ve bought long or things aren?t selling as well as planned. Give the deli some advance warning of items to expect so they can plan.

Deli folks: Let produce know what your ripeness boundaries are, and when the best time to approach you is. Ask questions about items you?ve never used.

Both departments: Listen to each other to find out what it?s like on the other?s side of the aisle.

Have a vision and commitment. Now that you?ve jumped some of your hurdles, take a look at the year ahead. What?s coming up? What type of collaborations can you create that will work for both of you?

Start small by choosing realistic goals. Remember the movie What About Bob? Baby steps, baby steps. With each small success comes the confidence to tackle bigger and better projects.

Plan ahead. Communication and support are essential to any project?s success. How are you going to communicate? Weekly meetings? Who?s doing what? Gather support. How can store management help? Is there someone in either of your departments who has less on his or her plate than you and can take the lead?

Feature the best of the season. Think like a customer: It?s spring, so feature items like mangoes, greens, strawberries, new potatoes, etc. They are at their best this time of year and people are looking to buy them. Get some local farmers involved by finding out what?s happening on their farms. What?s in abundance this season? What do you need to do to use local products?

Examine purchasing. How many cases must you buy to get the best price? Can you get more frequent deliveries? Can you get No. 2 product for the deli? You probably need to sell No. 1 product in produce, because people buy with their eyes, but No. 2 should be fine for production. A farmer?s seconds usually have the same or even better flavor and are a better price, and farmers often are looking for a place to sell their seconds.

Come up with ideas that will generate sales in several ways. Your products need to taste good and be a good value. Say the deli makes strawberry shortcake. It can be sold in the deli ready to eat, or next to the fresh berries in produce. Fresh berries can also be displayed in the deli. Have recipe cards available in both departments for folks who want to make shortcake themselves.

Use sale pricing. Figure out what price will make everyone want to buy. Remember, a good deal is a good deal for all parties involved. Can your farmer or distributor give you a better price if you buy more products?

Offer sampling, front and center. Place your products so every customer sees them and samples them. Think differently: Everyone expects fresh samples in produce. But what if the produce department samples small cups of the premade deli product and the deli samples the fresh produce? This gets the juices flowing. People who only shop in the deli get introduced to produce and vice versa.

Create excitement. Let the whole crew in on the idea. Have both departments eat what you?re trying to sell—not just one day, but every day. Give the clerks some information about the berries and shortcake, such as telling them the berries are the Chandler variety, which is grown for flavor and not for shipping. Or let them know the shortcake is made with organic flour and no trans fats. Have the farmer come in to talk about growing, or get your crews out to the farm. Nothing generates more excitement than hands-on experience.

Keep notes. As with any project, it?s always good to keep notes about what worked and what didn?t so you can share them at your next meeting and plan your collaboration accordingly.

Have fun. If it?s fun, you?ll do it again and again. And that way, everyone wins.

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

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 3/p. 94, 95

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