I don’t generally go to a deep discounter for fresh produce.
I’ve seen produce implemented well — at an Aldi store, for example. The most recent store I looked at in Burleson, Texas, had a wide variety of produce available, all of which was fresh and appealing.
I’ve also seen it done poorly.
A Big Lots closeout store in San Bernardino, Calif., that featured a display of ratty jalapeños, potatoes and onions comes to mind.
So when I heard Dollar General launched a new format including produce I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I pictured their standard no-frills small format stores and didn’t see how they could do much more than some apples, onions or potatoes — all items that are pretty low maintenance.
I had a chance to visit a store in Lakeland, Fla., while I was in Tampa for the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure.
This store was easily double the footprint of a standard Dollar General and featured a bright green, “fresh” design. Even the shopping carts were bright green.
The produce department was surprising. It had all of the expected fare: bagged apples, onions, potatoes and bananas, but that wasn’t all.
They also carried a small display of mangoes, several types of tomatoes and a 10-foot refrigerate case packed with more than I saw at several of the mom and pop supermarkets I just looked at on a trip to New Orleans.
In the refrigerated case, I saw:
u six types of bagged lettuce and salad;
u whole head iceberg lettuce;
u an assortment of loose vegetables sold by the each, such as field cucumbers for 45 cents, pineapples for $2.50, green bell peppers for 55 cents, and red bell peppers for 75 cents each;
u 2-pound grape clamshells for $3.85 and 1-pound strawberry clamshells for $2.25; and
u some of the produce was marked down 50% off for quick sale.
There were no scales, and all items were sold by unit price. Bananas were 22 cents each, and a 3-pound bag of bananas was $1.65.
On a Friday morning, the aisles were crowded with retirees pushing bright green — and full — carts.
Why should this be on the produce industry radar?
Dollar General has nearly 10,000 locations, many in rural areas and food deserts. The company said in November it plans to increase the number of Market stores from 60 to 100 in 2012.
If their fresh produce efforts continue to succeed, that could mean a lot of bagged apples.
Want to see a Dollar General Market produce department? Visit ProduceRetailer.com.