Florida growers offer a wealth of fruits and vegetables, and retailers are eager to promote them.

Publix Supermarkets Inc., a Lakeland, Fla.-based chain of more than 800 stores, is a big supporter of Florida produce, said Maria Brous, director of communications. 

Florida offerings vary each season at Publix based on crop conditions, she said.

From December through May, the stores carry as many Florida products as possible.

Top-selling items start with strawberries and tomatoes, then move into green beans, zucchini and yellow squash, corn, celery, herbs, chili peppers, kale, collards and citrus.

Publix identifies all products with local signage at shelf level and also places a Fresh from Florida icon in ads next to Florida products that are on sale.

During the spring and early summer, about 50% of the produce at Felton’s Meat & Produce in Plant City, Fla., is grown in Florida, said produce manager Ron Marshall.

Strawberries and a wide range of vegetables, including corn, peppers, cucumbers, local collard greens, turnips, mustard greens, okra, green beans and tomatoes are among the Florida items the store offers.

“(Shoppers) really like local tomatoes,” he said.

The store orders locally grown produce whenever possible and uses “Florida” signs to identify fruits and vegetables grown in the state.

“People like to support their home state,” Marshall said. “And they are used to the flavor of the local produce — the more local, the better.”

Summer also is the time when The Fresh Market, Gainesville, Fla., offers the most Florida-grown produce, said produce manager Lindsey Hurley.

The store is one of about 160 in the Greensboro, N.C.-based chain.

Yellow squash, zucchini, grape tomatoes and watermelons are among the most popular Florida items, she said.

Florida citrus used to rack up heavy sales, she said, but a decrease in volume caused by citrus greening disease has caused sales to drop off somewhat, she said.    

Florida peaches are heavily promoted during the spring, and Florida strawberries are consumer favorites during the late winter and early spring.

Shoppers prefer local produce when it’s available, Brous said, so Publix has several promotions that are directed toward Florida products each season.    

“Anytime you have product that is in season, there is usually an abundance available, which drives promotions and sales,” she said.

Publix works directly with Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on the Fresh from Florida program, which includes using the logo in ads and posting signage that Fresh from Florida provides.

Some organic items also are included, she said — especially strawberries and tomatoes.

A number of local farmers bring their products to Felton’s, Marshall said.

“I try to support local famers when I can,” he said, even if he does not have a particular need for their produce at the time.

“They work hard, and people appreciate them,” he said.

Felton’s has some organic Florida produce, but Marshall said there is not a big demand for organic among the store’s customer base.

Price-conscious consumers in the area “haven’t really jumped on the (organic) bandwagon,” he said. But he added that organic sales are slowly growing.

The store sometimes has a separate 5-foot section identified by “Florida” signs to easily identify Florida produce.

Florida fruits and vegetables typically are 20% to 25% cheaper than other produce, he said.

“(Shoppers) definitely appreciate local stuff,” Hurley of The Fresh Market said.

Shoppers seem to prefer Florida produce followed by California and then Mexican, if it’s available, she said.

All produce is identified by country of origin, and Florida products have signs designating locally grown items, she said. 

Related content:
Florida growers see strong fruit markets ahead
Florida weather cooperates for timely spring deal