( File photo )

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the produce department can help drive sales, marketers say.

Avocados and mangoes are two items that can anchor produce displays that give shoppers the ingredients they need for party snacks like guacamole and salsa.

Cinco de Mayo is the second largest holiday for avocados, trailing only to the Super Bowl.

“The average retailer will promote avocados 24 times throughout a year, but 90% of retailers will promote this particular week,” said Gina Garven, director of category insights for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh.

The holiday is also a key occasion to highlight mangoes. Raul Arcos, CEO of Nogales, Ariz.-based Palenque Foods, said Cinco de Mayo is the most important day of the year to promote the fruit.

“Most retailers make strong efforts to promote consumption in this particular period, giving consumers the opportunity to try mangoes for the first time and (suggesting) different ways to enjoy this majestic fruit,” Arcos said.

Bell peppers, red onions, cilantro, jalapeños and limes could all be part of a display for mango salsa, while a guacamole center could include similar items along with tomatoes.

“A simple Cinco de Mayo theme is all you need,” said Greg Golden, partner in Vineland, N.J.-based Amazon Produce Network. 

“Build a big, festive display and put a few recipes — especially drink recipe ideas — out there for people to take with them."

Avocado

“Cinco is a minor holiday in Mexico to commemorate a military victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, but nobody knows that here,” Golden said. 

“It somehow became a reason to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas. I would say just go with it and give people Mexican food and drink options.”

Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission, made a similar recommendation for holiday-themed displays of avocados.

“Cinco de Mayo, as celebrated in the U.S., is about fun, and retailers do a great job with merchandising that conveys a sense of fun and encourages entertaining,” DeLyser said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for colorful produce displays including California avocados and complementary produce. I’ve seen many displays that also bring in products from other departments, such as tortilla chips and beer.”

Merchandising the fruit in an area customers are not used to seeing it is another way to drive interest.

“Strategically placing secondary displays both inside and outside of the produce department can also encourage impulse purchases and promote pairings with any type of product, like taco cooking kits, for example,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce. 

“Signage should be present and always inform consumers about the different usages and occasions for avocados, and recipe cards placed directly next to the product help drive sales and encourage consumers to use the product in new ways. 

“Additionally, offering a coupon on bundled items adds value for the consumer, encouraging them to proceed with the promotional purchase,” Christou said.
Nissa Pierson, who manages sales and marketing for the Crespo Organic mango program of Rio Rico, Ariz.-based RCF Distributors, suggested the liquor section as an ideal area to set up a secondary display.

Beer

"The booze tie is widely celebrated, whether it be with Mexican beer or tequila,” Pierson said. “Placing a display of mangoes in the liquor section is proven to increase sales. Recipes and mangoes for our ‘famous’ Mango-Pit Margarita Mixer are very popular within the booze section.”

Ronnie Cohen, partner in Hackensack, N.J.-based Vision Import Group, recommended giving shoppers options when promoting mangoes.

“I believe the best model is offer at least two varieties we call reds/rounds and yellows,” Cohen said. “Be displayed with larger- and smaller-caliber offerings. 
This can satisfy different consumers’ personal likes and needs and for everyone in the supply chain increase overall volume.”

Golden noted that the timing of Cinco de Mayo makes it an ideal occasion to promote mangoes.

“(It) comes at a time before domestic tree fruit is widely available and at a time where offshore tree fruit is mostly finished, so it makes sense to run with what is in peak season — mangoes!” Golden said.

When it comes to pricing for an avocado promotion, Garven suggested that retailers test different approaches to see if the positioning of the offer makes a difference in sales.

“We (can) take the 99-cent/each example and turn it into whole numbers, like $1/each; multiples, like 2/$2; or a (buy one get one) where the price is $2 each and shoppers get one free with purchase,” Garven said. 

“All of these versions result in basically the same price, but shoppers will respond differently, which of course impacts the volume. The elasticity measures that result. This is the art of pricing.

“All too often retailers run the same ad on avocados, which can be a big mistake,” Garven said. “While you may see a corresponding lift in sales, how do you know (if) another price or type might be more effective?”

Mortar

Garven also suggests keeping in mind when consumers will be shopping for Cinco de Mayo and having fruit of the desired ripeness available at the right times.

“For a holiday in particular ... we need to time things exactly right, understanding that those who do their shopping several days in advance will have products that will last, and those who wait until closer to the holiday will need something that’s ready for immediate use,” Garven said. 

“Transferring sales to another store looking for the right avocado occurs normally, but during this holiday week it will be amplified.” 

 
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