FMI vice president Rick Stein (from left) guides discussion between Marty Mika of Central Market, Mike Tipton of Schnucks and Bill Pollard of Dollar General as Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of 210 Analytics, presents the Power of Produce report. ( Photo by Ashley Nickle )

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Produce leaders from Central Market, Schnuck Markets and Dollar General shared perspective on how they are working to increase produce sales at an education session March 8 at Southeast Produce Council event Southern Exposure.

The discussion centered around the Food and Marketing Institute’s annual Power of Produce report, which includes Nielsen and IRI data along with consumer survey results about purchasing habits among different demographic groups.

Related: Power of Produce: Key opportunities to increase fruit, vegetable sales

Marty Mika, business development manager for produce for Central Market, and Mike Tipton, vice president of produce and floral at Schnuck Markets, both noted that their stores work on giving shoppers the information they’re looking for about their food.

That area is one that is an opportunity for suppliers to collaborate with retailers, Mika said.

“We love to get information about the product, about your operation, about your business, our customers want that, so I think the key is give us more than you think we need, and we’ll take what we can use and disseminate to the customer, whether we do it digitally, in-store or communicate it to our employees so they can tell the customer,” Mika said. “So just please keep the information coming.”

Retailers can then deliver that information to shoppers through digital media, in store and through its store-level employees.

Another consumer trend on which retailers are working to capitalize is plant-based eating.

“I think it’s more than just a fad,” Tipton said. “This plant-based diet is really something as an industry we can play on.”

Related: Power of Produce: Channel and path-to-purchase insights on millennials

Bill Pollard, director of produce for Dollar General, brought a different perspective to the discussion. Only a small percentage of the company’s stores carry produce, but it is very much a growing area for Dollar General.

“We’re listening to our customers,” Pollard said. “We put our toes in the water at least five, six years ago with our (Dollar General Market) format ... The feedback we keep receiving from them is, ‘We want a more healthier option.’ ‘Please give us more of that option.’

“With recent expansion (of produce) into our traditional formats, they’re loving every minute of it,” Pollard said.

Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of 210 Analytics, talked about many different growth areas within produce, including organic.

She noted that organic sales continue to grow but that the organic shopper is changing. While devoted organic shoppers are not as price-sensitive, others newer to the category are.

That can be an opportunity for retailers, Roerink said.

“We see some of those folks dip in and out of organic, or dip in and out based on the item, dip in and out based on the occasion, and that’s why some experimentation – based on your store, based on who shops there, their income and their disposable income more than anything – some experimentation with some price promotions in the organic space might be the way to continue to drive people to try it at least and see what they think,” Roerink said.

For more from the Power of Produce report, check out our related coverage, and get the full report -- which has many additional insights -- from FMI at

Related: Power of Produce: Attitudes toward packaged fruits and vegetables