Thank you, Giant Food for making fresh fruit samples for kids an official policy.

The Landover, Md.-based retailer launched a program to offer a complimentary banana or easy-peel to kids in all 169 stores as of Sept. 8.

Free samples for kids aren't new. I see them all over the country - at Whole Foods, Central Market, Lucky's Market, some Krogers, some Hy-Vee stores - but it seems like an official program is the exception, not the rule for most retailers.

They're usually one of those "gotta know a guy" kind of things. I shopped at Publix with a friend once and she suggested taking the kids over to the bakery for their free cookie. Publix gives kids free cookies? I had no idea.

The deli gals at H-E-B offer a sample slice of meat or cheese to my sons while we wait for our order, and that's great.

You know what I'd like better, though?

A free banana. A free clementine. A free apple, or hey, let's get fancy here, how about a plum or pluot?

I did an informal poll and asked people how often their kids make shopping a miserable experience. I'll let you guess the answer. It's no surprise how many memes there are about shopping without kids being a mom vacation. It's true.

So, what do parents do?

Throwing food at the problem is a common solution, and parents get creative about it. I'm guilty of letting my kids glom berries in store, even though I know I should wash them first. It's not uncommon for us to get to checkout at Costco with a half empty clamshell of raspberries, and based on the checker's reaction, I'm not the only one who does this.

I've even done some pretty interesting checkout negotiations, having a clerk weigh something twice because my kid already ate a piece of fruit. Judging by their reactions, I guess most people would just let it go.

Where's the ROI?

I get it. Retailers are in the business of selling fruit, not giving it away. "Going official" and offering a table or basket stocked with this kind of sample can be a scary proposition. What if people abuse the privilege?

Really? A banana? A clementine?

As editor of Produce Retailer Magazine, I spend a lot of time thinking about how retailers can solve problems. How many of you have a stack of single bananas floating around because consumers are jerks and break up bunches?

How many of you have one funky clementine in the bag and don't want to make a separate SKU to sell them bulk?

Is it really that much shrink to give it to a kid instead?

And consider the gesture, as well. If you have a policy to offer kid-friendly fresh produce samples, and you're not talking about it you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Grateful consumers are spotting these displays, taking pictures of them and sharing them on social media for you. One mom's thankful post about Kroger's program went viral. Six unrelated people shared it with me on Facebook.

Also think about your shoppers without kids. Anyone who's shared a plane with a grumpy baby or toddler knows how stressful it is not only for the parents, but for everyone around them. Everyone loves it when that kid quiets down, right?

Translate that to your aisles. When a kid is throwing a fit, do people stick around to shop? Of course not.

The parents don't want to linger, either. They're in survival mode, grabbing only the essentials and getting the heck out of dodge.

So when you really think about it, what do you have to lose besides a few bananas that were a hard sell, anyway?

Kid-friendly is everybody-friendly.

 
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