Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

Often in this space, I refer to fresh produce offerings as “product.”

To most, I suppose, this is simply an interchangeable word in our business: Produce, product, merchandise. But this isn’t necessarily so.

In one of my not-so-old college textbooks, “Basic Marketing” by William Perreault Jr. and E. Jerome McCarthy, the concept of product is thus explained:

“Most retailers … sell more than one kind of product … the assortment critical to success. Yet it’s best to take a broader view in (regard) for a retailer’s marketing mix. The retailer’s whole offering — assortment of goods and services, advice from sales clerks, convenience and the like — is its ‘product.’”

A produce retailer’s “whole offering” can be examined in this example: You carry watermelon, and with it being summer it is merchandised in large cardboard bins.

Do you stop there?

Of course not. You also offer watermelon cut, wrapped and in the refrigerated case. It is offered in halves but also cut in quarter-sized chunks too.The same watermelon can be purchased as individual wrapped slices or in multiple, fruit-tray assortments.

The last enhancement of “product” is the human factor: the produce manager explaining something about the watermelon to a customer, or a demo clerk offering a sample.

All these choices and services, extending from a single item under the umbrella term “product.”

Scores of other examples abound. Romaine lettuce is typically sold in its raw form, in a hearts-only pack, in packaged salads, and offered as conventional, organic or both. You get the drift.

The point of the text argues for a retailer to have a good sales strategy, as “Different consumers have different needs — and needs vary from one purchase situation to another.”

This seems simple enough, especially in regard to the watermelon example. The whole watermelon customer may be for a large gathering. The half customer buys for a smaller family or simply to make sure the melon is good quality. Each customer may not buy anything if a particular product isn’t available.

Review your stocked offerings each morning. Can you confidently say you are ready for the wide assortment of shoppers for the day? Is each display clean, fresh and inviting? Is each display culled, straightened, level, accessible and neatly signed?

Is your crew knowledgeable enough to answer most customer questions, courteous enough to offer samples and willing to offer assistance?

Only at this point can you confidently say if your product level is truly sufficient for the day.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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