Where retail sales of garlic and herb are concerned, where is almost as important as what, suppliers say.

Positioning of a product in a retail produce department matters, said Camilo Penalosa, Everett, Mass.-based partner in Infinite Herbs & Specialties, which has its main office in Miami.

“I think that one of the things is I recommend putting the herbs in places where the supermarket is visual and everybody walks by them,” Penalosa said.

Position of garlic, herbs means a lot at retailThat sentiment probably applies to all produce, but particularly for herbs, which often aren’t a top-of-mind item with a lot of consumers, Penalosa said.

“In a minor category, putting it in high-vision place, sales will increase,” he said.

Shoppers will look for items like spinach and lettuce — even garlic — while they’re in a store. Not so, with herbs, he said.

Category managers who keep that in mind will reap rewards in higher sales, across the produce category, Penalosa said.

“It will tell the supermarket and its clientele that store has great variety,” he said.

Garlic has an advantage over other items, said Louis Hymel purchasing and marketing director with Orlando, Fla.-based Spice World Inc.

“The demand for garlic items is always strong because it’s a main ingredient among many nationalities and used by all nationalities,” he said.

It’s also a good idea to stay creative in showcasing the product, Hymel said.

“Good merchandising is crucial for increasing sales and incremental items driven by extensive cross-merchandising,” he said. “It’s a great item for selling more items and boosting profits in all grocery departments — not just the produce department.”

Gilroy, Calif.-based garlic grower-shipper Christopher Ranch has found that garlic is a “natural” for promotions several times a year, said Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing.

“Harvest (summer months) is a natural due to the good availability and freshness of the crop. Halloween is fun time to promote garlic to play off of the vampire/garlic humor, and the holidays or winter is a good time to promote fresh garlic for use in comfort food cooking,” she said.

Numerous promotional strategies work at retail, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets the Melissa’s brand.

“Highlight category before major holidays and events in ads, merchandising in the proper location of store, handling and display of product at eye level,” he said.

Positioning is important, too, he said, mentioning “refrigerated herb category together, away from misters, next to other leafy greens and herbs like cilantro, parsley, watercress.”

Herbs are worth the extra care, Schueller said. 

“ All in all, the fresh herb category is a high-margin category, yet it can be high-shrink if not marketed correctly in the produce department,” he said.

Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Passover, Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day are strongest for herb sales, Schueller said.

“But the retailer just can offer these seasonally by holiday to be successful,” he said.

West Grove, Pa.-based garlic grower-shipper I Love Produce LLC has cross-promoted garlic with mushrooms, said Jim Provost, a co-owner.

“Those two products go hand-in-hand,” he said.

The company also has paired garlic with tomatoes in promotions, for the same reason, Provost said.

The principle can be applied in number of promotional efforts, Provost said.

“Garlic is in a lot of different foods,” he said.

How much promotion garlic needs is subject to debate, said Bruce Klein, marketing director with Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus, N.J.

“It’s pretty much a staple item, so if you promote garlic I really don’t think you sell a lot more,” he said.

Consumers buy it no matter what price it is because they need it, Klein said.

Some promotion does help, though, he said.

“It’s not a price-sensitive item, but it is a good idea to use secondary locations with garlic, because people will realize they need garlic with their sauce or their roast, and there it can be an impulse item, and it’s good for secondary locations because it doesn’t need any refrigeration.”

I don’t think it’s driven by price. I think it’s more driven by how it looks in the store and if the consumer is thinking about it at the time.

Harrisonburg, Va.-based Shenandoah Growers Inc. cross-merchandises its herbs, said Tim Heydon, CEO.

“Typically at the holidays, there will be cross-merchandising with poultry, and sometimes with fish — dill, for example,” he said. “Absolutely, at the right moments through the calendar, cross-promotion works very well.”

Morro Bay, Calif.-based Vida Fresh Inc. supports its customers’ promotional efforts but lets the customers take the lead in those initiatives, CEO Andrew Walsh said.

“In general, what we’ve seen is a real commitment to streamlining the distribution process with better-quality and better-looking product,” he said. “The quality that people want continues to increase dramatically over the last five years. People are demanding better and better-looking, and we continue to improve it all to meet the demand for better quality.”