Imagine the front page of any grocer’s produce ad. Depending on the time of year, it could lead with strawberries, apples, citrus, stone fruit, cherries or berries. These are the “sexy” produce items.

Onions and garlic? Not so much. Consider for a moment how the humble onions and garlic are usually merchandised in the less prominent areas of a produce department. Likewise, the highest these items will place in an ad are in the secondary or ‘liner’ positions. That’s unfortunate for these members of the bulb family – especially given their history of high demand, steady sales and popularity.

It makes a produce person want to cry. Or does it?



According to the National Onion Association, ancient Egyptians worshiped onions, and one of the first cookbooks – including one by a Roman foodie known as Apicius – included many references to onions.

Now, more than 450 loads of onions are consumed every day.

Along with their rich history and popularity, onions are low in calories, high in calcium and vitamin C, a good source of fiber, flavorful and go with just about every culinary dish imaginable – fresh or cooked.

Common varieties are yellow, red and white, and green. However, 27 other varieties are available in varying colors, packs and sizes. Those items rotate through the produce department depending on the season and availability.

According to The Packer’s Fresh Trends, 71% of consumers purchased onions in the past year. Households earning in the $25,000-$50,000 range are most likely to purchase, and women are 17% more likely to purchase onions than men.



A member of the onion family, garlic also has numerous culinary applications. Ninety-percent of the garlic grown in the U.S. comes from California. In fact, Gilroy, Calif., hosts an amazing garlic festival in late July. The charitable event attracts busloads of visitors – more than 100,000 – from all corners of the world who crave, eat and enjoy everything garlic.

Call it foodie catnip.

Garlic in its numerous varieties is believed to ward off heart disease, cancer, reduce plaque buildup in arteries and even ward off the flu and common cold (in addition to vampires).

Fresh Trends points out that 44% of consumers purchased garlic in the past month, Asian consumers are the most likely ethnic group to purchase garlic, and purchase likelihood rises along with income.

 Merchandising of onions and garlic

Traditionally, you’ll want to go with the flow and continue to merchandise ‘dry’ onions and garlic on the potato and onion table. Most produce managers separate these two categories, but if you mix up the merchandising a little it helps slow down your customer and attracts attention.

Displaying the white onions next to the bulk, Idaho russets for example, makes a terrific color break. 

Boost garlic and onion sales by…

Consider tie-in or secondary displays. Bins of colorful tomatoes compliment and boost garlic sales when paired together on a display. Some stores even combine items such as lemons, tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and onions on one table and draw attention by signing it as the ‘flavor center.’


Highlight the sweets

Vidalia and Walla Walla onions are renowned for their sweet flavor. Growers from Vidalia, Ga., and Walla Walla, Wash., take great pride in marketing their geography-specific and seasonal fare. Take the time to properly merchandise and sign these accordingly, and schedule these into your in-store sampling rotation with distinctive displays to call attention to the difference in these sweet, flavorful onions.


Serve it up on the side

Many stores display unique or specialty-designated onions (shallots, pearl onions, small or pre-packaged onions) as well as bulk and packaged garlic on smaller side fixtures or on pull-out drawers of other tables. These serve to keep the items separate from the larger, adjacent displays. The ‘side’ or ‘kicker’ tables help call attention to the specialty onions or garlic while keeping inventory and shrink levels in check.


Sales, sales, sales

It all adds up to maximizing sales. And since garlic and onions are historically in the higher profit-margin category, it pays to keep these items fresh, full, regularly rotated and as prominently merchandised as anything else in your produce department.

Interesting produce items, onions and garlic. Both are versatile, great in just about everything, cooked or fresh, are aromatic, vibrant, alluring, spicy or mild.

Whew … who says onions and garlic aren’t sexy?


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