( Photo by The Packer staff )

The produce department might never be busier than the first few weeks of January, as shoppers approach stores with the best of intentions, determined to buy more fruits and vegetables and get healthier in the new year. The conditions are right for a win-win situation for retailers and their customers.

Many people sprint gung-ho into January with plans to revamp not only their diets but their entire lifestyles — not just eating healthier, but cooking at home more or tracking specific nutrients. With those folks in mind, stores should be sure to stock up on all vegetables, particularly greens, as they will be hot commodities with shoppers trying out diets from keto to plant-based to vegan and beyond.

Such wholesale changes in eating habits don’t always stick, but when they do, those adjustments can certainly be a boon for sales.

Even if people abandon their more stringent New Year’s aspirations, the produce department still has a unique opportunity in the first few weeks of 2020 to engage with shoppers in ways that may spur incremental increases in produce consumption even after the zeal for New Year’s resolutions fades. 

Brian Dey, senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Four Seasons Produce, recently made a great point along these lines. January is the perfect window to introduce shoppers to new leafy items, less common roots and other products that aren’t typically on the shopping list for most people. 

A lime display in the seafood department included a sign with a quick recipe for a citrus marinade.

A store could encourage impulse sales, for example, by sampling a simple juicing recipe and handing out cards listing the ingredients. Even if shoppers don’t stick with juicing as a regular part of their diets, they may continue to use items like lacinato kale, dandelion greens or other new-to-them ingredients in salads or other applications.

But how about the folks jaded by the memories of past New Year’s resolutions abandoned? Plenty of people have no illusions that their habits will change in 2020. 

That doesn’t mean those shoppers wouldn’t be amenable to suggestions on how to be just a little bit healthier. What are some ideas stores could offer about ways people can work more fruits and vegetables into their habits? Sautéing bell peppers, onions and celery with ground beef for hamburgers, for example, or substituting cauliflower in a cheesy potato dish.

Recipe cards for infused water and citrus-based marinades are a couple of more ideas — I actually saw a recipe for the latter with a lime display in the seafood department last week.

People are thinking more about eating healthy in the next couple weeks than they will all year. Produce departments are positioned to give those shoppers just what they are looking for ... and hopefully even a few delicious, healthy items they didn’t know they were looking for but will be thrilled to have discovered.

Ashley Nickle is editor of Produce Retailer magazine and retail editor of The Packer. E-mail her at [email protected].

Related content:
Give shoppers something to talk about
Creativity wins, any day
Buzzfeed’s produce department advice