SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Fruits and vegetables are the retail stars in more ways than one.

A panel of retailers at the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s annual meeting April 3-6 discussed ways to increase retail sales and raise produce consumption.

Chris Keetch, director of category management, produce and floral for Ahold USA, Carlisle, Pa., said he prefers high-quality fruits and vegetables to speak for themselves.

“We use ‘eye appeal is buy appeal,’” he said. “We use familiar items to push unfamiliar.”

Allison Kuhn, director of retail nutrition for Kroger, Cincinnati, also stressed that high-quality produce can sell itself, but it also can make for a cleaner looking produce department.

pbh retail panel
(from left) Chris Keetch, director of category management, produce and floral for Ahold USA; Allison Kuhn, director of retail nutrition for Kroger; and Steve Howard, vice president of perishables for Bristol Farms, told how produce can star at retail at a panel at the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s annual meeting April 6.

“Our customers have some ‘sign fatigue.’” she said.

Kuhn said Kroger is using customer rewards cards to encourage healthier purchases.

“We try to incentivize consumers to buy healthier food for their shopping trips tomorrow based on what they buy today,” she said.

She said Kroger promotes healthy food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as the best medicine. 

Steve Howard, vice president of perishables for Bristol Farms, Carson, Calif., said nearly two-thirds of the chain’s inventory is perishables.

“Produce is throughout our stores,” he said. “Produce owns our lobby.”

Organic also remains hot. Howard said about 70% of Bristol Farms’ produce department is organic.

“We’re on track to be 100% organic, and our customers want that,” he said. 

Kuhn said Kroger’s private label organic brand “Simple Truth” has been tremendously successful. Kroger announced earlier this year that its chain-wide organic produce business topped $1 billion in annual sales.

“Organic has such a strong association with health,” she said.

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