The produce department plays an important role in any holiday meal, but I think this is especially true at Thanksgiving. So many parts of this traditional dinner feature our cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes for candied yams, cranberries for sauce, russets or Yukons to be mashed, garlic to be roasted, pumpkin and apples for pies and crisps, nuts to be cracked. The list goes on.
And an essential—but oftentimes too simple—part of this feast is the stuffing. Whether your customers are preparing to stuff a turkey or a Tofurky, a little inspiration from you about how to spice up this side dish with surprising fall produce can make it the conversation piece of the meal.
There are so many variations on this favorite, and many of them include items from your produce department. So this year, why not display produce items that are different from the normal stuffing fare of onions and celery? I'm not saying that these stuffing staples aren't important. Believe me, you'd get run out of town if you didn't have these on hand and in great abundance. But how about making an end cap filled with breadcrumbs, onions, celery, spices and … kiwi?
That's right, kiwi! That little fuzzy brown oval of nutrition is, ounce per ounce, the most nutrient-dense of the 27 most commonly consumed fruits. Set out copies of a stuffing recipe that includes this fall fruit along with the kiwis in your display. (You can find a stuffing recipe with kiwifruit, along with others I mention in this column, at www.naturalfoodsmerchandiser.com/ThansgivingRecipe). This is also a great way to highlight your organic kiwis, since recent research has found that organic kiwifruit has much higher polyphenol and vitamin C content than conventional kiwi, which results in higher antioxidant activity.
Another winter favorite that's a great addition to traditional stuffing? Pomegranates. Yes, that native of Iran and the Himalayas that's taken the nutritional and culinary worlds by storm can add a surprising twist to your typical stuffing. Not only will including this powerhouse fruit boost the health factor, the rich red color will really complement stuffing's traditional browns and greens.
Since adding this fruit to your Thanksgiving displays will likely get customers intrigued, why not really rattle the holiday menu by encouraging customers to make pomegranate sauce instead of cranberry sauce? Blasphemy, you say? I'm willing to bet the folks shopping in your department who really love food will be grateful for your clever ideas and come back for more during the next holiday—and throughout the following year.
Here are a few tips to consider for Thanksgiving sales success:
- Make copies of the recipe you post so people can take them home.
- Ask the prepared foods department staff to make one or all of these recipes so you can point harried holiday shoppers to their case. You could also ask them to prepare extra items to sample, since nothing seals a deal like a taste of what's tempting you.
- Put the display and recipes up at least a couple weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday to start the inspiration process.
- If you can, post the recipes on your Web site in case someone gets home and has forgotten or lost the recipe.
I'm getting hungry merely thinking about these different possibilities; just imagine what your customers will do when they see your beautiful display with these recipes. Both you and your customers will love the tasty and festive atmosphere it creates in the store.
Mark Mulcahy has more than 25 years in the organic produce industry and is the produce director for New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz, Calif. Contact him at [email protected].
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 11/p. 32