She and Ladhoff said they also realized that produce departments frequently have a shortage of employees, and retailers are apprehensive about taking on promotions that require additional labor.
That’s why the two organizations have enlisted the help of their grower-shipper members, Reddin said.
During packing, grower-shippers will place three to five totes on top of the potatoes or onions in the carton just before the lid is put on.
When the produce department employee goes to restock the bulk potato or onion display, the bags are right at hand.
“It will help the retailer and grower-shipper develop stronger connections with this project,” Reddin said. “It gives the grower-shipper the opportunity to use this to move more product for them.”
Making the connection
Rick Kantner, director of sales and marketing for Alsum Farms & Produce, Friesland, Wis., said he’s shown the tote bags to a couple of retailers, who are already interested in trying them in their stores.
“Our vision here is to really connect directly with the consumer and help the retailer make that connection too,” Kantner said. “We really believe if you give consumers ideas and thoughts, they’re looking to have fun. And potatoes and onions are two of the really key products within the produce department.”
Based on data provided by the bag company with whom they’re working, Reddin said sales of fruit in the handled tote bags increased by up to 15%.
The potato and onion groups plan to run a pilot program this winter.
“We want to be able to quantify for both of our industries what the success looked like, shopper response and the category lift that the tote bags achieved,” Ladhoff said.
Based on retailer and consumer feedback, the groups will tweak the program and hope to have it ready for a nationwide rollout by the first quarter of 2013, Reddin said.