(Photo courtesy Brian Dey)
There’s more than one way to make sure your customers know you have ripe avocados. Some retailers use ripe-and-ready stickers or point-of-sale material, and others simply offer most of their fruit ripe.
“I see the spectrum,” said Brian Dey, senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Ephrata, Penn.-based Four Seasons Produce. “I see stores that don’t do anything, and I see stores that with the help of some companies have actual ripening instructions on sign cards.”
Others use ripe-and-ready stickers. Some place paper bags and ripening directions near the display. Dey said he has noticed in the last three to six months that some stores are segregating ripe and unripe fruit.
Price Mabry, produce sales manager for the Gulf Coast division of Associated Wholesale Grocers, also noted there are many different approaches to communicating with shoppers about avocados.
“I see ready-to eat-signage and (point-of-sale material) being used,” Mabry said. “I also see ready-to-eat, store-made guacamole next to displays in ice beds or refrigerated merchandisers. I have seen stickers on the fruit that state ‘ready to eat,’ and I have seen store associates talking with customers on the taste profile of a ripe avocado.
“Avocados From Mexico also provides information such as education in stores, providing avocado ripening bags for stores and display,” Mabry said.
Jeff Cady, director of produce and floral for Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Friendly Markets, also mentioned the support of AFM.
“We have sent out actual fixtures provided to us by Avocados from Mexico, and they do a great job,” Cady said. “Customers can actually feel. Much of that information is also on the external display vehicles they provide.”
Stickers and signs
Dennis Payne, senior produce category manager for Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market, mentioned tagging ripe fruit with stickers that say, ‘Ripe, Ready to Eat.’
Vic Savanello, regional vice president of produce and floral for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash, also described the use of stickers as a good practice.
“Most consumers appreciate that effort to help them pick the fruit that is right for them,” Savanello said.
In addition, those who use SpartanNash’s online grocery service — Fast Lane — can specify how ripe they want their avocados, and the personal shopper will select their fruit accordingly, Savanello said.
Louis Scagnelli, director of produce and floral for Alpha 1 Marketing, an affiliate of White Plains, N.Y.-based Krasdale Foods, said the company offers all of its stores point-of-sale material designed to educate shoppers on how to tell whether an avocado is ripe.
Michael Schutt, produce merchant for West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s, said his company has tried a number of approaches over the years, including stickers, but he feels segregated displays are ideal.
“My belief is that the best merchandising provides customers with both ‘ready to use’ and ‘ready in a couple of days’ displays with clear signage for items like avocados and bananas,” Schutt said.
Ripe fruit focus
While point-of-sale material for avocado education is popular, it isn’t ubiquitous. For some stores, consistently offering ripe avocados and talking with shoppers about them has a similar effect.
Scott Bennett, produce sales and merchandising manager for Itasca, Ill.-based Jewel-Osco, said the company makes sure it has preconditioned fruit and adds a sign that says ‘Ripe’ to displays.
“We’ve trained the customers at Jewel-Osco pretty well that they understand that we are going to have ripe avocados day in, day out,” Bennett said.
“At this point, we don’t really have to advertise it at all because customers really understand when they go to Jewel they’re going to find ripe avocados," Bennett said. "It’s basically all about preconditioning and making sure it has a little bit of give to it.”
Kevin Byers, produce merchandiser for Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, described a similar approach.
“We have a long-standing program that revolves around having ready-to-eat, ripe avocados on the sales floor as well as avocados that are a day or two away from being ready to eat,” Byers said. “Our customers have come to know and trust that we will have the perfect avocado for them daily. Because of this we do not do much to communicate to our shoppers about ripeness. We educate our staff about ripeness and check quality daily.”
Patrick Mills, director of produce and floral for Niwot, Colo.-based Lucky’s Market, also described the store team as key to the process.
“We train our store team members to be well versed on proper handling and storing of the fruit,” Mills said. “We always try and buy smart so we can have ripe fruit for sale at all times.”
However a retailer calls it out – or doesn’t – ripe fruit is key to success, Dey said.
“Some retailers might miss some avocado sales because a lot of times they have just hard fruit on display, and as a wholesaler, we have a preconditioning program, but that’s just basically putting ethylene on the fruit, and it still might have a couple of days that it ripens, but setting up an in-store ripening program is so simple,” Dey said.
He provided the following instructions:
- Select how many boxes of fruit to ripen.
- Place in each box a banana, onion, tomato, or anything that gives off ethylene.
- Cover the box with a plastic bag. Depending on how fast you need the avocados to ripen, cut a few holes in the plastic to allow some of the gas to escape.
- Monitor the fruit to make sure it is at the ripeness you want and doesn’t become overripe.
For more information, you can check out this resource from Four Seasons.