The downturn in the U.S. economy is forcing more grocery stores to reach out to growers and distributors for help with marketing fresh garlic and herbs.

Every supermarket is looking for something different, said Camilo Penalosa, vice president of business development and a partner for Miami-based Infinite Herbs LLC's branch in Everett, Mass.

"Stores want more promotional material and more merchandising to help sell, especially with the slowdown of their sales," he said.

Infinite Herbs helps retailers market its products through promotional display boxes. Infinite Herbs also includes recipe cards inside the packaging.

Frieda's Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., does all its own marketing and also assists with merchandising on occasion, said Karen Caplan, president. Large displays and information signage at retail outlets have proved to be the most successful marketing strategy, Caplan said.


Pairing herbs with other products has also been an effective marketing strategy for many companies. For example, Frieda's did a large promotion for cut mint with sugar cane swizzle sticks for mint juleps for the Kentucky Derby.

Companies are also working to pair basil with tomatoes.

"We want to get the basil out of the refrigerated section," Penalosa said. "It will burn and turn black if it gets too cold."

Through creative cross-promotion, the company is also educating the consumers, who can learn how to properly store their herbs. When they buy them and take them home, they won't put basil in the refrigerator, he said.

Market research

Infinite Herbs is also reaching out to the consumers as part of its marketing strategy. The company performs in-store market research by distributing short questionnaires to shoppers in the herb section.

Through its marketing program, Infinite Herbs hopes to become more of a partner with the supermarket buyer.

Vida Fresh, Vernon, Calif., is also working to satisfy its customers' needs on more of a personal basis.

"We plant based on what we can sell," said Andrew Walsh, president. "We continue to streamline our communication channel with our customers to get them what they need rather than what we think they may need."