Photo courtesy Brian Dey

Avocado movement the week of the Super Bowl has grown each of the last four years, and retailers plan to do their best to make sure that trend continues.

Unit sales of avocados for the days leading up to the NFL championship game have increased from more than 51 million in 2016 to 65 million in 2019, and dollar sales have grown from $42.5 million to $56.4 million in that same time frame, according to data from the Hass Avocado Board.

“With the Super Bowl being the biggest avocado consumption day of the year, we put a focus on our avocados, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, limes and cilantro to inspire guests to make their own guacamole, whether they use their own recipe or follow ours,” said Dennis Payne, senior produce category manager for Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market. “We also conduct a sampling of our private-label guacamole and salsas ahead of the big game for our guests that may want to buy them already prepared.”

Scott Bennett, produce sales and merchandising manager for Itasca, Ill.-based Jewel-Osco, said his stores generally get quite creative to promote avocados around the Super Bowl, with tactics including advertising on roadside billboards, sampling house-made guacamole, and having employees wear T-shirts celebrating the fruit.

“We do a lot to get avocados going from now through Super Bowl so we don’t lose a sale there and obviously keep it active in a customer’s mind,” Bennett said.

He noted that, along with avocados, guacamole drives a lot of business in the week leading up to the game.

Several produce retail professionals mentioned that contests around the football holiday can help move the needle on sales.

“Display contests between stores are always healthy, especially during the Super Bowl,” said Patrick Mills, director of produce and floral for Niwot, Colo.-based Lucky’s Market, “It just adds competition to the workplace.”

Jeff Cady, director of produce and floral for Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Friendly Markets, described store contests as helpful to getting merchandising at the right level to engage shoppers and spur impulse sales.

“Large displays with high graphic (point-of-sale material) stir up the excitement,” Cady said. “Online we basically just speak to the avocado and how it is a great Super Bowl item.”

Michael Schutt, produce merchant for West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s, also pinpointed merchandising in stores as the primary way to garner more sales during Super Bowl week.

“Displays, displays, displays!” Schutt said. “The key is making sure that the right amount of fruit is on display for the customer. We lean in on promotional funding from organizations such as Avocados From Mexico to create contests or other events that stimulate additional ‘selling’ activities in-store and online as well.

“We also make sure to pull on all levers of our avocado business to not leave any customer behind, whether that’s bags of small counts, premier large size bulk or organic,” Schutt said.

With the number of people that will be hosting or attending Super Bowl parties, there is a significant opportunity to involve other departments in displays.

“There are several marketing tactics that have been very successful for the Super Bowl sales period, including multiple merchandising locations throughout the store, cross-merchandising avocados by the beer and near tortilla chips — for guacamole scooping — and near the guacamole displays themselves,” said Vic Savanello, regional vice president of produce and floral for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash,

“Many SpartanNash stores also offer build-your-own guacamole bars leading up to the Super Bowl so customers can get guacamole that tastes homemade without the effort,” Savanello said. “Stores that have Fresh Divide stations — where customers can pick up pre-sliced and diced fruits and vegetables or have a produce expert cut them while they shop — also offer great avocado and guacamole options for Super Bowl parties.”

Even simply placing an avocado display by the checkout lanes can really drive sales leading up to the game, Savanello noted.

Louis Scagnelli, director of produce and floral for Alpha 1 Marketing, an affiliate of White Plains, N.Y. -based Krasdale Foods, said that aggressive advertising in the circular, in-store digital coupons, social media posts, sampling, recipe cards, game-related displays and cross-merchandising all have a role in maximizing Super Bowl sales.

Kevin Byers, produce merchandiser for Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, said the company promotes around the Super Bowl online but does not do as much in-store around the game.

“The first and most important is ensuring we have plenty of ripe fruit the days leading up to the game,” Byers said. “Our customers expect that, and we do not want to disappoint. The second thing we do in-store is make large, prominent displays.”

Brian Dey, senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Ephrata, Penn.-based Four Seasons Produce, said he often sees displays that tie in the entire store, with chips, beverages, other ingredients for guacamole, olive oil and more. Often stores will look to entice shoppers with lower-than-usual prices as well. Dey said he has seen stores offer the fruit as low as 88 cents a piece.

“Now they weren’t making any margin and they kind of used it as a loss leader, but as a result, you move more fruit and people are shopping at your stores,” Dey said.

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