“It was a one-shot thing, but I think it helped sales,” Pitt says.
But Pitt’s experience isn’t a universal one. Artichokes are a tough sell at Kowalski’s Market in Woodbury, Minn.
“We used to do long-stemmed artichokes, but they were almost two times the price [of short-stemmed artichokes] so we dropped them. We switched to short-stemmed artichokes and they do a little better,” produce manager Tim Fortier says. “But we only have about 20 of them on a shelf in with the rest of the vegetables.”
Growers agree artichoke sales can be challenging.
“With less than half of shoppers making the decision to buy at the store, it increases the importance of reaching out to people when they are not in the retail environment with information about artichoke usage, nutrition and preparation,” says Kori Tuggle, director of marketing and business development for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms.
Raley’s features an annual sales contest during the peak of the Castroville season in late April through early June, says John Holder, senior manager of produce and floral. The sales contest focuses on increasing sales and innovative cross promotions.
“Whenever we promote, our supplier Ocean Mist Farms also will broadcast our web blast to their social media contacts,” Holder says.
Raley’s promotes artichokes on end caps and lobby displays and encourages cross promotional tie-ins with grocery and general merchandise, he says.
Pricing promotions also are key.
“Artichokes are an ad-driven commodity,” says Russ Widerburg, sales manager at Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms. “Promotions during holidays, holiday weekends and sporting event weekends appear to drive sales for retailers.”
The time of year also affects sales.
“Because of the longer preparation time it takes to cook artichokes, demand appears to be better in the cooler months rather than the warmer months of late spring and summer. Colder climate areas have better demand than the warmer climates,” Widerburg says. “The next big promotion time for artichokes will be Easter.”