Retailers, growers connect at FPAA convention

12/06/2007 12:00:00 AM
Dan Galbraith


Rick Smith (left), vice president of fresh departments for Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., answers a question from a Mexican grower during the educational seminar “Produce from Mexico is Critical to our Business” on Nov. 29 at the 39th annual Nogales Produce Convention. Fellow retailer speakers Bill Price, director of perishables for Associated Food Stores, Farr West, Utah, and Mike Lobaugh, vice president of perishables for Haggen Inc., Bellingham, Wash., listen.

(Dec. 6) NOGALES, Ariz. — Outgoing president Lee Frankel was a reluctant center of attention at the 39th annual Nogales Produce Convention & Invitational Golf Tournament on Nov. 29-Dec. 1, but there was other business at hand.

Retail speakers connected with growers and other members of the produce industry in Arizona and Mexico to discuss how to improve business.

Retail speakers emphasized the need for consistent quality and supply, along with more of a focus on grower-driven marketing.

“We need to continue on a path toward high-quality produce in Mexico,” said Bill Price, director of perishables for Associated Food Stores, Farr West, Utah. “Find other ways to capitalize on differentiation of your products. That story needs to be told. You sell them once on how it looks, but you’ll sell them twice on how it tastes.”

Mike Lobaugh, vice president of perishables for Haggen Inc., Bellingham, Wash., agreed it’s vital for Mexican growers to do a better job relating the story of their products and their company roots to U.S. retailers and consumers.

“We need to educate the consumer to sell produce,” said Lobaugh, noting Haggen has had much success recently cross-merchandising fruit and cheese with in-store sampling. “You need to tell the story. What’s in it for the customer? Play up the pride of the families who farm the land. That’s a story we need to get to the customer at the point of sale.”

Lobaugh said he believes growers need to expand self-marketing efforts with newspaper advertising, tri-fold materials, inserts/bag stuffers and full-card signs.

Effective promotional materials, coupled with high-quality product, is a proven winning formula for increased produce sales, the retailers stressed. In fact, Lobaugh explained how a full-card sign promo with Pence peaches caused a sixfold sales increase at Haggen stores.


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