The Produce Aisle with Armand Lobato ( Photo by The Packer staff )

I’m bummed.

That’s my old-school, ’70s lingo for being down, sad, and a bit weary. Especially now that summer of 2019 has passed, the last of this decade. I see fast-declining facings of stone fruit, melons and all that defines summer.

Produce departments are reacting accordingly and merchandising for fall.

The volume and sales in most markets drops too. In fact, through the end of October sales typically dip to the lowest point of the year. It stands to reason: School is back in session; more meals are away from home. Power items such as cherries, peaches, even local fare are long gone or soon to be. 

Fall/winter citrus from Texas, California and Florida is a big category to drive sales, but that availability and volume doesn’t kick in until early to mid-November.

But there are things to do now that can help build sales through the next six weeks or so.

Fresh, new crop apples can help a lot. My old friend Tim Mansfield from Sun Orchard Fruit Co. in Burt, N.Y., has been a great apple coach through the years as I bought for both foodservice and retail.

Tim was a godsend. He let me know what kind of apple varieties were on the horizon. What was new each season, the story behind each variety, the size profile and what kind of ad opportunities we could consider. Tim frequently sent a sample ahead of time too, just to complete the whole picture.

That’s the kind of help and information we were able to pass along to the produce managers, chefs, or non-commercial customers like school systems, hotel chains or colleges. 

And in retail, if a produce manager uses the point of sale materials, merchandises the apples well and takes advantage of the information, color breaks, creative signage and samples the goods, fall takes on a whole new sales outlook.

Fall is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of all the pear varieties (oh the aroma of those Northwest pears!), apples, fresh roasting chili, fresh dill for pickles, new potatoes, squashes and onions that all sing the season’s praises, especially using matching décor like bushel baskets, burlap and red checkerboard cloth to accent a display.

Fall is an excellent time to promote the green (wet) rack too. You move more leafy greens if you have a demo clerk making and sampling all the flavorful salad possibilities. Everyone likes salads and adding apples, nuts, herbs or other items is a great way to add a little zest.

Just because produce sales graphs dip along with fall temperatures, it doesn’t mean you can’t push for optimum sales. Cheer up. No need (or time) to be bummed when there’s sales to be had.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].