Sometimes the best way to sell something new is to rely on age-old techniques.

Take overwrapped produce for instance. In some non-bulk chains, it’s the only way to sell produce. In others, selling overwrapped items is the exception. In both instances, there’s something to be gained using this method to merchandise fresh produce.

Patrick Mills, produce merchandiser for Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market, offers his perspective. “Let’s keep an eye on this customer coming around the potato table,” he says. “She’s already purchased some A-sized bulk red potatoes and a 5-pound bag of russets on the endcap. Now she’s circled around and is taking a long look at the overwrapped packs of fresh fingerling potatoes. We offer them in random-weight packs of red, white, purple and mixed on our little side tables. Fingerlings are something different, attractive, easy to fix, and in a prewrapped SKU — easy to purchase. See? She just placed a package in her cart.”

It's a wrap!Overwrapping helps move some items because the package looks like it was prepped in store — even if it wasn’t.

“A few years ago, that fingerling sale might never have happened,” Mills says. “Same thing goes for the whole line of overwrapped items we offer for sale, such as baby bok choy, patty pan squash, baby zucchini or any combination of like, smaller items.”


Simplicity and appearance of in-house preparation

Overwrapping items sells produce. There’s something about the method that helps to move any array of products in grocery stores — everything from in-shell nuts to peeled shrimp. The overwrap package conveys a value to the customer — especially in terms of selling smaller-unit items in a single package.

“We once offered those fingerling potatoes loose on the wet rack,” Mills says. “Selling something like that (in bulk) killed most interest in the item. Few customers wanted to pick through the tray, especially on a less-familiar produce item. Overwrapping eliminates that obstacle.”

Two other factors help provide a sales platform for overwrapped produce items. The first is that they offer a protected, clear view of the produce. The second (and probably best advantage) is the package lends itself well to spot merchandising — placement on or near related destination marketing areas.

As well as the numerous tie-in possibilities.

“We’ll offer overwrapped garlic cloves on a side table near the tomatoes,” Mills says. “Or place overwrapped Idaho bakers or even overwrapped mushrooms on a table near the steak case. On a busy weekend these suggestive tie-in overwrapped items will sell tenfold, over just having a set location — which we have as well. By marrying certain items, we take full advantage of the impulse shoppers.”


It isn’t just the small stuff

A successful overwrapped program isn’t limited to small items such as fingerlings or patty pan squash. Some stores report substantial unit sales on items such as a stoplight pack of bell peppers (red, yellow, and green), or multi-packs of various tomato varieties. Sometimes the overwrap helps sell items such as green beans or snap peas — keeping floors clean, displays tidy, and shrink in check.

Overwrapped assortment-packs have carved a niche into ready-meal programs too, Mills points out. “We get plenty of interest in SKUs such as salsa or guacamole assortments. Even if they don’t pick up our overwrapped package, it gets the customer thinking to buy what items they need,

individually, for the suggested pack.”


How the overwrap program functions

Some chains designate a centralized point such as a distribution center for overwrapping, where dedicated staff repack bulk produce into overwrapped retail units. These items are typically prepriced so all the receiving store has to do is stock the items, saving on time and labor — while still offering an item that looks in-store prepped.

It’s also possible to accomplish the same at store level. It’s best to consult your produce merchandiser for guidance on what you are allowed to wrap and price, based on your chain’s policies and guidelines. Beyond this, it’s possible to use standard-sized trays and overwrap equipment to build any assortment of packs that appeal to your customer.

“The key to a good overwrap program is to offer the greatest assortment of items at peak sales periods,” Mills says. “And it’s important to offer everything you have on a consistent basis for best results.”

Even when sales decline, it’s easy to break the packs open and sell on bulk displays, so there’s an avenue left to limit shrink.

There’s a certain appeal to a produce item that is neat and clean in a tightly packed overwrapped container. It offers the customer an alternative method to purchase fresh produce that conveys freshness, convenience and sense of value.

Overwrapping is a worthwhile enhancement to any produce operation, if you can swing it. As each customer quietly drops an item into the shopping cart, they’re saying in essence:

“Wrap it up…I’ll take it.”