Store gradually expands organic offerings

01/14/2014 03:01:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Ben Lomond Market in Ben Lomond, Calif., started building up its organic program in 1989, when the store was rebuilt after an earthquake.

“When we set the new department up in the new store, we brought in organics, and we’ve gradually expanded the section,” said Andy Gustavson, produce manager.

“Now it’s about one-third of the produce department.”

The store carries a large selection of organic produce, he said — up to 125 items.

He merchandises organic items on one-and-a-half of the four tables in the produce department.

When the price is right and weather permits, he’ll also set up some large tables outside the store that feature organic produce.

“It does very well here for us,” Gustavson said.

Top-selling organic items are bananas, carrots, beets and greens. Apples also do well, as do organic grapes in the summer.

Because of the way Ben Lomond Market is laid out, the organic wet rack is one of the first things customers see. The section is identified by a sign that runs the full length of the section.

Gustavson, who has logged 40 years in produce, advertises organics every week. The store’s ad features about 10 conventional produce items and six to 12 organic ones.

The price difference between organic and conventional product is “shrinking drastically,” Gustavson said. In fact, it’s not unusual to have organic items that are cheaper than their conventional counterparts.

Gustavson has invited growers to come to the store, talk to customers and demonstrate products, he said. Sometimes he sets up farmers markets outside the store.



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