( Courtesy Jimbo's )

As consumers set out to eat healthier, more and more organic produce seems to be popping up on supermarket shelves.

Half of the fruits and vegetables sold at Market of Choice, a chain of 12 stores based in Eugene, Ore., are organically grown, said Gene Versteeg, produce sales manager.
“That’s our Market of Choice strategy,” he said.

The company sold off stores in locations where support for organic produce was lacking and opened stores where demand was strong, he said.
The chain merchandises organic produce in multi-deck wet racks.

“We try to put the organic item right above the conventional item so the customer can compare the two,” Versteeg said.

Sometimes, conventional lemons, for example, are 79 cents apiece, while organic lemons are 99 cents.

“When the price gets that close, a lot of times, conventional customers will grab the organic (item),” he said.

When organic produce is segregated, he said, “Conventional shoppers may not go near it.”

Bananas, Hass avocados, broccoli, carrots, lemons and cucumbers are the chain’s top organic items based on dollar contribution to the produce department, Versteeg said.

Sales of organic fruits and vegetables have risen 10% to 20% at Market of Choice this year, Versteeg says. That’s two or three times the rate of conventional produce.

In the San Diego area, Jimbo’s ... Naturally!, a group of five stores offers more than 250 organic produce items, said produce buyer Ryan Peterson.

“Our produce departments are 100% organic produce,” he said.
Young coconuts and Mexican papaya are among its newest organic additions.

Jimbo’s also offers organic in-house cut fruit and value-added vegetable items.

“Pineapple and melons are our most popular fruit items,” he said. “Our most popular vegetable items are zucchini spirals, butternut squash, fajita mix and stir fry mix.”

Jimbo’s features organic produce in each of its ads.

Organic packaged salad has been highly popular at Market of Choice.

“Organic is dominating that category,” he said. “We continue to take facings away from conventional to introduce more organic items as we get new offerings.”

About half of the Market of Choice produce ad is organic, Versteeg says.

“We’re at a tipping point,” he said. “It’s getting close to a time where I think it’s going to make sense for us to only carry organic.”