Organic sales are directly related to their visibility in stores, according to marketing agents.

“Consistently promote and put organics front and center,” Rachel Pagano, organic category manager with Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, said when asked what retailers should do to increase organic sales.

Pagano said retailers should offer a dedicated organic section with a wide choice of items and visual appeal.

Regular in-store product demos are a crucial strategy, she said.

“We think the formula for success is sampling on a regular basis, supporting ads with demos for interaction, listening to the voice of the customers, and cross-promoting with other complementary items,” she said.

Health-minded consumers, in particular, will respond, said Gwen Kvavli Gulliksen, sales and marketing director for Harvest Sensations in Los Angeles.

“People who buy organic care about what they feed their children and what they put into their own bodies,” she said.

Oxnard, Calif.-based organic grower Deardorff Family Farms tries to establish a personal connection with consumers at store level, which also drives sales, said Tom Deardorff, president.

“We advertise to the industry, and as they roll out their own programs to consumers we try and participate in those,” he said, adding that the company name is featured prominently in store ads.

A technology component on packaging further drives sales and tells the grower’s story, Deardorff said.

“We have QR (quick-response) codes on our strawberry packs that draw people to videos,” Deardorff said.

Establishing a connection between consumer and grower may be the most important aspect of marketing organics at retail, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.

“People want to know that their food is authentic, and that’s a real growing trend not just in organics but food in general,” Pepperl said.

A retailer looking to build an organics category need only contact an organics supplier — or network — to get plenty of merchandising help, said Addie Pobst, import coordinator for CF Fresh, Sedro-Woolley, Wash.

“Organics are really available at all levels in the produce trade from virtually every vendor, and they don’t need any special care and feeding,” she said.

It’s not a difficult transition, Pobst said.

“If you deal with conventional apples, you can stock organic apples with just the same day. It’s not hard,” she said.

Another strategy is to start small, said Scott Mabs, sales and marketing director for Porterville, Calif.-based Homegrown Organics.

“I think they can take some of the basic staple items that are good movers and offering an option in organics in their normal produce section and offer them as an option to the consumer as an easy way to get involved,” he said.

Organic fruits and vegetables have an advantage of location in a store, which can help build the category, said Craig Hope, chief customer officer for Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif.

“The produce department is the gateway category and continues to be the largest category in organic food,” he said, noting OTA’s finding that produce accounts for 40.5% of total organic food sales.

To prompt further growth, a retailer can focus on items that carry smaller organic price premiums, such as bagged salads, Hope said.

“It says something to the consumers and they appreciate the care that goes into choosing organic as well as the great variety organic can offer,” he said.

A retailer has to care about the category or it won’t succeed, said Simcha Weinstein, marketing director for Albert’s Organics, Bridgeport, N.J.

“If you embrace it like you truly believe that you are selling a product that can make a difference, then you will have success selling organic fresh foods,” he said.