(April 8) Want to increase sales of the No. 1 item in your produce department? Then try your hand at banana promotions. Suppliers say that putting the top-selling produce item on sale draws traffic to your department and leads to additional produce scans.
Rick Utchell, vice president of marketing at Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif., says bananas are an impulse item, and statistics show that consumers are more apt to purchase bananas when they are on promotion.
Banana promotions create a sense of excitement in your produce department, too, says Tim Debus, vice president of the International Banana Association, Alexandria, Va. He says your efforts to build that excitement will increase interest and consumption of the fruit.
Bananas can be a profitable destination category. David Lund, director of marketing at Chiquita Fresh N.A., Cincinnati, says 60 percent of consumers seek and buy bananas each week. When you promote the category, you remind consumers to eat bananas and keep the likely banana purchaser coming back to your store, he says.
But even though bananas are frequently shopped, John Loughridge, vice president of marketing at Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., says fewer banana promotions are eroding shopping habits, particularly among those 18 to 34 years of age.
“If other items are promoted and bananas are not, the margins produced by this key item will decline over time,” he says.
To keep this from happening, apply the following strategies to make your next banana promotion successful.
LESSON 1: PLAN AHEAD
While there isn’t a hard and fast rule for when to start planning your promotion, many suppliers suggest you start at least four to six weeks in advance.
“The more time you have to plan, the better the promotion will be,” Utchell says. “We suggest you talk to a salesperson first and decide what you are going to do and how you are going to execute it.”
The type of promotion dictates how much preparation time you need.
Marion Tabard, marketing director at Turbana Corp., Miami, says if it is just a sales promotion, advise your supplier two or three weeks in advance in order to load the additional volume, ship it, ripen it and deliver it to the stores. A marketing promotion, on the other hand, usually requires several months of planning, she says.
To make it easy on yourself, plan out an annual calendar at the beginning of the year and share it with your suppliers.
Jeff Adams, produce manager at Auchan Hypermarket, Houston, a two-store chain, says the stores promote bananas once every three to four months.
“Bananas are our No. 1 item and when customers see them on sale with a good price point, they associate the rest of our department with good price points,” Adams says. “We don’t really pick specific times of the year to promote them. We know that whatever time we choose, we will have a good draw.”
LESSON 2: DEVELOP A THEME
Implement a creative theme in your promotions for added success.
“January is a great month to do a ‘Healthy New Year’s Resolution’ theme,” Lund says. “It’s a time when consumers are trying to eat healthy. February is National Heart Month and bananas have no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium, and they are a good source of potassium, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.”
He says March is National Nutrition Month, so consider featuring bananas as part of a 5 a Day message. Loughridge suggests tying in local sporting events, marathons and walks for a twist on health promotions. He also says meal occasions are a good theme because retailers can showcase how bananas fit into breakfast, lunch, snack time and dinner.
In the spring and summer, encourage consumers to eat outdoors and try promoting bananas as part of a fruit salad. The summer also bodes well for promoting a tropical theme, which could lead to additional sales of other tropical produce items like pineapple, papayas and melons. Utchell says to carry the tropical theme throughout the store by merchandising bananas and pineapples in the meat department with chicken for a sweet teriyaki taste and putting bananas in the bakery for a banana cream pie.
Turbana’s Tabard recommends holding a Banana-Rama promotion, in which you advertise and showcase the entire banana category including plantains, exotic bananas and organic bananas. She says a Banana Bowl promotion during football season or the Super Bowl is a good way to promote bananas as a healthy snack.
All suppliers point out a back-to-school theme is a top idea in late August for promotions, too.
“Bananas can go in a lunch box just as easily as apples,” Lund says. “Kids eat about the same amount of bananas as apples, so focusing on kids and back to school is a great fall program.”
At the end of the year, promote bananas as part of fruit salads for holiday get-togethers or as baking ingredients for muffins, cakes and pies.
LESSON 3: ADVERTISE
Let consumers know in advance that a banana promotion is coming. As they anticipate the event, excitement will build and consumers will remember when they need to hit your store for the best deals.
In-store circulars can be the simplest way to spread the word. Adams says the Auchan ads promoting the banana sale are written four or five weeks in advance. Lund says retailers sell twice as many bananas during a promotion if the ad includes the Chiquita brand and logo.
When promoting specialty bananas, Utchell says it is important to advertise in store fliers. He says retailers should treat the specialty bananas differently in the ad by drawing more attention to them and giving usage ideas, examples of how they taste and information on how to select ones that are ripe.
Radio and television also offer avenues for advertising. Chiquita has used radio support for major events like the company’s annual summer program, and Lund says he has seen retailers use television commercials to highlight the promotions.
Tabard, however, says television is expensive and most stores stick to advertising through fliers or radio spots.
During the promotion, you also could make use of your store’s public address system. Adams says the stores make several announcements luring consumers to the banana promotion.
No matter which type of advertising you choose, Loughridge says there are certain messages you should highlight in your ad. He suggests advertising bananas’ health benefits, their portability for consumers on the go, their value and their versatility.
LESSON 4: BUILD THE DISPLAY
When the time has arrived to build your banana display, be creative. Think about what would catch the eye and make purchasing bananas fun.
There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to promotional banana displays, but almost all suppliers say it should be in the front of the produce department to instantly attract consumers.
“If bananas provide somewhere around 10 percent of produce sales, the display space should be at least 10 percent of what the store has available,” Loughridge says.
Lund suggests expanding your everyday display by 15 percent to 20 percent. That can be done by adding to the original space using graphic boxes or other produce racks and equipment, or by building a secondary display either in the department or another location in the store.
Tabard recommends building the display twice as large as you normally would. She says waterfalls and winged displays help catch shoppers’ eyes and increase impulse buying. Utchell also suggests using overflow tactics and placing the display on an endcap.
Auchan’s everyday banana displays are 8 by 4 feet and hold half to three-fourths of a pallet of bananas. Adams says that during promotions, he increases the display to hold up to a pallet and a half of bananas.
“I usually use graphic boxes for a spill-over or waterfall effect,” he says. “I place the boxes all around and through the display.”
On Feb. 28, bananas were part of Auchan’s storewide Market Day promotion. Adams put bananas on ad at 25 cents a pound and sold close to four pallets in one day, compared to selling one pallet per day at the 38-cent regular price.
The display was accentuated with 3-foot square signs with 1-foot tall numbers indicating the sale price. He says the large size lured customers to the display.
If you don’t have signs like Auchan’s, check with suppliers to see what they might have to offer. Del Monte has inflatable bananas that can hang over your display to do the trick, and almost all suppliers have point-of-sale materials like leaflets, signs and information cards available with their brand name to help make your display a bigger success.
“Things like point-of-sale price cards add to your display and can bring a nutritional or fun message to the promotion,” Utchell says.
LESSON 5: ADD FLAIR TO THE PROMOTION
Successful banana promotions often incorporate fun events or activities that heighten the excitement.
Some suppliers hold display contests to get your creativity flowing. Loughridge says display contests provide participating stores the added motivation to do a good job of storing, handling and displaying bananas to ensure high purchase levels.
Other suppliers suggest holding in-store events where company mascots appear and entice the crowd.
“Our main promotion has been the Bobby Banana Shuffle,” Utchell says. “It gets kids dancing and eating more bananas, and it’s good brand recognition for Dole. We also encourage coloring contests and promoting our four miniature plush toys.”
Tabard says using the Turbana Twins, Turbo and Anna, helps animate the produce department during promotions.
“Last year, the Twins went on tour with a decorated Volkswagen beetle to visit 32 Ahold stores. They took photographs and signed autographs at Stop & Shop, Giant Food Stores in the northeast and Bi-Lo stores in the southeast over a period of two weeks,” Tabard says.
Suppliers also suggest cross-merchandising items that work well with bananas. Dole has worked with Jell-O in the past. Retailers built displays incorporating Jell-O products and provided recipe ideas using both Jell-O and bananas.
Turbana suggests cross-merchandising soy products like tofu and promotingbanana shakes.
Sampling is another simple, yet often overlooked, addition to promotions. Tabard says demos that provide recipes and educational information can help sell the whole banana category during the promotion, especially unfamiliar plantains and exotic bananas. Loughridge says sampling specialty bananas during your promotion gives consumers a risk-free way of trying the products.
If you are looking for even more ways to make your banana promotion stand out, consider working with other organizations like the International Banana Association, the American Heart Association, Dallas, or the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Alexandria.
Chiquita partnered with Ford Motor Co. last summer and gave away a Ford Windstar. Two years ago, the company built its summer promotion around the Country Music Awards.
“We are very selective about who we pick to partner with. We choose those who deliver a consistent message similar to what the Chiquita brand stands for, as well as those who can bring an exciting prize to consumers that they wouldn’t go out and buy for themselves. The CMA trip was a fantasy trip that consumers couldn’t buy, and last fall we gave away a trip to a Costa Rican rainforest,” Lund says.
LESSON 6: REAP THE BENEFITS
When you put these strategies to work, suppliers say promotions become more successful. Tabard says banana promotions usually represent a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in banana sales. In some cases where the promotions have been really successful, retailers have recorded that sales double, she says.
Loughridge says Del Monte tells retailers to expect a minimum of a 25 percent increase with a banana promotion, although some retailers have experienced a 100 percent increase with well-executed programs.
“Successful promotions are ones that are simple to execute and that don’t overly burden the store to execute,” Loughridge says.
Typically, if banana promotions fail, most suppliers attribute the failure to one of two things: either the display wasn’t properly stocked at all times and kept full, or there wasn’t accurate color and staging of bananas.
Adams says he stocks half of the display with a greener banana at a ripeness stage of 2.5 or 3 and the other half with ripe and ready-to-eat bananas. Suppliers also say displays must maintain a good appearance no matter what time of day the shopper arrives at the store, and produce clerks can’t forget to stock secondary displays as well.