Pile of pineapples pushes produce purchases - The Packer

Pile of pineapples pushes produce purchases

04/19/2012 01:48:00 PM
Coral Beach

Courtesy of C.H. RobinsonPineapple growers from the Veracruz, Mexico, area traveled to the Macey’s grocery store in Pleasant Grove, Utah, to see the fruits of their labor in the form of the world’s largest Tropicana pineapple display. The growers, from left, Eduardo Aguirre, Alfredo de Diego and Max Molia, were joined by Southwest produce import manager Jiovani Guevara, second from left, and Sponge Bob Square Pants, center.Macey’s grocery store in Pleasant Grove, Utah, turned into a tropical grove recently with the world’s largest Tropicana pineapple display.

The display used 36,750 pounds of fruit and is credited for increasing produce department sales by 15% for the week.

The display was the latest in a series, said Leigh Vaughn, senior produce operations specialist for Associated Retail Operations, which owns stores under five banners, including Macey’s. He said discussion of the pineapple display started in August 2011 on the heels of a gigantic grape display.

“This particular store has a relatively large lobby that we knew would work well, and good traffic,” Vaughn said. “It also has the right demographic with young families and a large Polynesian population base in the area.”

Kim Smith, southwest produce manager for C.H. Robinson, said the serious planning for the event began in January. April 4 was selected as the debut date because Smith and others thought pineapples would sell well during the week before Easter.

C. H. Robinson, the licensee for Tropicana pineapples, not only supplied the fruit for the display, the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company also trucked the semi-trailer full of pineapples to the Utah store.

“The fruit only had six days on it at the time the display went up,” Smith said. “We had this load specially packed for this event.”

Vaughn helped pile up the 8,820 pineapples at the 24-hour grocery store. He said he didn’t realize how much of a spectator sport the project would be.

“It was awesome to turnaround to pick up another case and see that there were 10 or 12 customers taking pictures with their cell phones and posting to Facebook and Twitter,” Vaughn said, crediting the social media appeal of the event for part of the increased traffic in the store’s produce department.

The store’s produce manager usually has 32% to 33% frequency in her department, Vaughn said. During the display she reported 44% frequency. The department usually contributes 8.5% of the store’s sales. During the display, produce accounted for 10.9% of sales.

Produce sales were 15% higher during the week of the display compared to the same week last year.

“Last year that week was case lot display week, which always increases sales,” Vaughn said. “So the 15% increase is especially significant.”

Both Vaughn and Smith said many retailers are afraid to try big displays.

“You just have to have a good exit strategy,” Vaughn said. “We sent a few cases to a couple of our other stores in the area, but we sold it all. They sold so fast that we had to take down the display after only four days.”

About two pallets of the pineapples were cored and chopped at the store and sold as fresh-cut. The fruit was also promoted as a gift for the Easter season. Special bags were printed with gift tags included so consumers could give pineapples as hostess gifts when they went to Easter dinners.

“The pineapple is known as the international hospitality gift, so the bags seemed like a natural,” Vaughn said.

His only other advice to retailers planning giant display promotions: “Be sure that the grocery guys haven’t run down the batteries in the pallet jacks before you start.”

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