Use these tips to boost the sales of your top produce sellers.
Use these tips to boost the sales of your top produce sellers.

What are the top 10 produce items by volume?

Strike that. A better question might be, “What are your top 10 volume items?” This list will vary from one time of the year to another, and it can vary from one region to another as well. I’ve picked a group of strong contenders in no particular order (except for the first item), along with some merchandising tips that can boost overall sales by up to 20% — or more.

1. Bananas. Due to year-round availability, ease of consumption and consistent affordability, nothing comes close to this sales leader.

Enhance Sales by: Building as large a display as you can, even if it means you use your entire daily inventory. Spread the display out using fixture extenders or shipper containers. Offer a selection of ripeness stages, and if you build secondary displays near the dairy or cereal aisle, make it a habit to stock and cull frequently.

2. Oranges. Summer valencias are steady movers, even with their regreening trait. But from early November until May, navels rule the citrus roost.

Enhance Sales By: Keeping the display culled and just-stocked-out-of-the-carton fresh, even if this means dummying up the display base to generate frequent inventory turns. Fresh orange aroma appeals to the senses. Try displaying a few fresh-cut and overwrapped “representative” fruit. Better yet, offer a taste with this easy-to-sample citrus favorite.

3. Apples. Year-round availability makes them a solid seller used for everything from waldorf salad to pies to sack lunches and myriad other applications. This versatile fruit moves by the pallet in numerous sizes and packs.

Enhance Sales By: Eliminating confusion for your shoppers by signing each variety. Offer best-used-for tips and sample both the familiar and unfamiliar varieties. Display cold whenever possible and separate displays using contrasting color breaks to attract attention and slow your customer down. Hand-stack and offer a good selection of both bulk and bags.

4. Lettuce. Still considered one of the top three items, it’s consistently found on many shopping lists. This category lends its qualities well to salads and sandwiches, as well as any recipe that requires the “crunch” factor, such as tacos.

Enhance Sales By: Keeping displays full, fresh and inviting. Cull aged or wilting heads immediately. Avoid packing leafy greens displays overly tight; these sell best when stocked for ease of shopping. Utilize good color breaks with other salad-related vegetables to trigger overall impulse sales, such as with red cabbage, radishes, carrots or green onions. Spur additional head lettuce sales by offering some cut and wrapped half heads for the older or single shopper.

5. Tomatoes. With increasing SKUs that include everything from grape tomatoes to tomatoes on the vine, this is not your father’s one-trick pony tomato stand.

Enhance Sales By: Carrying all available varieties to drive this category ever higher.

As tomatoes have multiple applications, so should you think in multiple displays: Tomatoes stocked with avocados, adjacent to the leafy greens and head lettuce, or near the
multideck packaged salad case. Tomatoes also need TLC. Spread them out on displays but take care not to stock too deep to avoid shrink.

6. Potatoes. The No. 1  volume item sells well in all demographics, and nothing is as versatile and pocketbook-friendly as the humble spud.

Enhance Sales By: Expanding visibility. Mass displays are a key to building sales. Also carry all varieties to build good color breaks. Spread out and push the packs that sell best for your neighborhood. Larger packs do better in blue-collar neighborhoods, and smaller packs do better in affluent areas, as do bulk and niche-variety displays.

7. Onions. Another top mover that lends its qualities well to multiple uses.

Enhance Sales By: Constant care. Onions are more volatile than anyone realizes, which means this category requires frequent care to remove excess loose skins from the display and frequent rotation. Merchandise away from the “set” display area occasionally, especially with seasonal sweet varieties, to call attention to this power item and build added sales.

8. Strawberries. Many industry leaders believe this popular, year-round staple paves the way for the entire berry category.

Enhance Sales By: Spreading out on displays, and work in other berries for color breaks. Rotate and inspect frequently to maintain freshness. Refrigerated displays are a must, but during peak season and peak customer traffic periods, you might try building sales in unrefrigerated displays, taking care to not overbuild. Concentrate on frequent turns to minimize shrink. Suggestive dessert tie-in items such as whip cream and shortbread cakes greatly enhance strawberry sales.

9. Peppers. Thanks to increased varieties and availability, peppers are quickly becoming a top-10 volume leader.

Enhance Sales By: Exposure. The best merchandising move you can make with peppers is to build secondary, off-refrigerated displays. Some chains find they can easily triple their pepper movement by merchandising a salad type, dry table that includes tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, and by merchandising peppers in large, colorful end caps to draw customer traffic.

10. Melons. Also a category no longer limited to seasonality, melons of all types are a solid volume driver.

Enhance Sales By: Giving your customers a choice of purchase options. Offer cut melons, including multiple cut choices, halves, quarters, etc., to sell more product, including whole fruit — as shoppers can get a glimpse of what the quality is like. Try mixing slices of different melons in a single package too.

While this is my list, your top-10 list may vary. In any mix or order, the important thing to remember is that you can get the best bang for your merchandising buck by focusing on your top-moving items, as this pushes your volume (and associated sales) up in the greatest increments, without adding much in the way of added labor expense. The common threads are to keep displays clean, full and inviting to your customers. Make the displays shopper-friendly, sign everything well, provide recipes, bags and samples, and train your crew to be helpful and interact with customers.

If the top-10 items represent 90% of your business, just think what a coordinated push can do to boost sales — and profits.