Cross-promotion is the key term for the Greeley, Colo.-based National Onion Association’s retail push this year, said Kim Reddin, director of industry relations with the association.
This year, she said, the association is working with the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board on a tote bag promotion.
“The U.S. Potato Board has some great information on retail studies that basically revealed more and more information on the potato and onion counter in produce departments,” Reddin said.
The central finding from the board was that there are generally few signs in that corner of the department, Reddin said.
“We’re working on coming up with a way to communicate information about which potatoes and onions to purchase,” she said.
The information will include guidance on best uses for all onion — as well as potato — varieties, Reddin said.
“People are watching the Food Network and they get ideas from what they see and want to know what kinds to use for which dishes they prepare,” Reddin said.
Shoppers will find that kind of information on tote bags on display in retail produce departments.
“You see that with fruit, where in-store produce department staff or manager will put bulk items into the bags, which are easy to take away for the consumer,” Reddin said.
It makes sense that potatoes and onions employ the same concept, she said.
“Oranges and apples have shown that the idea works,” Reddin said.
A tote bag filled with 2 or 3 pounds of onions or potatoes will have information about each commodity printed on a side of the bag, including recipe ideas, Reddin said.
“That’s the cool thing about it,” she said.
The program will be rolled out in July or August, but as of late April a firm date had not yet been decided.
Reddin said it will be test-marketed on a limited basis.
“We haven’t decided where, but (will try) a few different stores in different parts of the country as a test run to find if the consumer and retail is open to this,” Reddin said.
“Based on the results, we’ll determine what we do going forward. We think it’s going to do very well.”
Promotions like the tote bag idea are generally well-received because onions are a sought-after item in the store, said Wayne Mininger, executive vice president of the association.
“Onions are a staple, there all the time, always available,” he said.
They also offer plenty of packaging and display options, other marketing agents said.
“Some like bulk displays, others bagged. It can flip-flop,” said Jeff Brechler, salesman with J&D Produce, Edinburg, Texas.
The Parma, Idaho-based Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee will unveil a retail promotion of its own — details had not yet been finalized — later in the summer, said Sherise Jones, marketing director.
Promotional programs work well, she said, if they are able to enhance the loyalty a shopper has for a particular retailer.
“If retailers can promote onions and communicate to consumers that they honestly care about what their consumers are eating, that can raise sales,” Jones said.
The more information about onions a retailer can put in a consumer’s hands, the better, Jones said.
“Promotions that include educational material, health benefits, recipes to enhance consumers’ dining experience can go far to raise sales and create that loyalty bond,” she said.