It’s easy to become a true food hero to your customers—ease their wallet pinch and give them local strawberries in December at the same time. The trick is an oldie but goodie: Create an endcap for home food preservation. Canning, freezing and drying food are about eating locally all year round, according to Lynea Schultz-Ela, owner of A Natural Resource Consulting in Hotchkiss, Colo. Savvy customers are taking this technique beyond jam. “Pickling is the newest home-cooking trend. It’s easy, tasty and reflective of many cultures,” she says. Here, we help you get ready to help customers extend the harvest.
In addition to the basic supplies listed below, you can also showcase pressure cookers and food dehydrators, as well as how-to books on food preservation techniques, such as Well-Preserved (Clarkson Potter, 2009) by Eugenia Bone or The Everything Canning and Preserving Book (Adams Media, 2009) by Patricia Telesco and Jeanne P. Maack. “Any canning endcap should have a good selection of lovely jars, not just utilitarian jars, because of the gift-giving aspect,” says Jay Jacobowitz, president of Brattleboro, Vt.-based Retail Insights. “If the retailer has the room and wants to be the ‘one-stop shop’ for all canning needs, she or he must also have the large canning pots with trays and lids and tongs for picking up the jars.”
Best for: Fruit and jams are typical, but canning can preserve everything from peanuts to salsa—all stored easily in a cool, dry place.
Con: Every tool used in processing must be sterile.
- Canning jars and lids
- Jar lifter
- Organic sugar
- Kosher salt
Best for: Freezing is a great way to have fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.
Con: It requires energy, and the frozen goods take up space.
- Freezer-quality plastic bags
- Glass containers with lids (glass is safer for long-term storage, Schultz-Ela says)
Best for: Like canning, pickling is an easy way to preserve foods for long periods with relatively minimal energy investment.
Con: Not everyone enjoys the distinctive pickle flavor.
- Vegetables and herbs (if the endcap is in the produce aisle)
- Packaged spices for pickling (available from Frontier Co-op)
- Pickling or kosher salt
- Small canning jars
Jacobowitz says customers’ common inspirations for preserving foods are an abundant garden crop and gift giving—or both at once. This makes your local harvest periods and holiday seasons perfect times to break out your preserving endcap. “Playing off the themes of seasonality and gift-giving will trigger the urge to can,” he says. “People who go to the trouble to do their own canning are proud to share their bounty with friends and family.”
No matter where you place your endcap, it’s a perfect venue for cross merchandising, says Debby Swoboda, a Stuart, Fla.-based retail marketing consultant and founder of askDebby.com. This might include prepared examples of the featured recipes from your display. For example, Schultz-Ela suggests cruising ethnic grocery stores to discover the ingredients used in their pickling and chutney spice mixtures. Put these ingredients on your endcap with tear-off recipes, as well as pre-made versions of chutneys.
Because food preservation can be daunting for a beginner, Swoboda suggests creating a flyer as a centerpiece to your display that ties all the elements together, including how-to ideas, recipes, tips and even a ready-made shopping list. Swoboda also recommends creating an icon or branding theme “to help create a recognizable visual that ties the canning/preserving campaign together. Make it easy for the consumer who is interested in the topic to recognize items throughout the store that might be part of the production process, recipe, etc.” Schultz-Ela suggests using the theme “extending the harvest” as an easy way to remind customers that budget-minded strawberries are possible in December—and your endcap is the gateway.