You may recall this line from “The Mask,” the 1994 Jim Carrey film – “Can’t make the scene if you don’t have the green!”
Of course, we’re all about green in the produce department, especially when it comes to marketing salads and leafy greens. It’s the category within the produce department that requires extra-close ordering, a lot of preparation and just as much execution to make it look good for your customers.
How does a produce buyer decide on the multitude of SKUs? How does a manager lay out an effective merchandising plan? Here are a few thoughts on these topics.
The salad SKUs
This category is multi-faceted, with chopped lettuces, chopped greens, mixed blends and pre-assembled salad kits, to name just a few. A buyer or merchandiser typically decides on which lines to carry based on the needs of its core consumers.
This evaluation can result in sourcing small packs for singles or larger packs for families; featuring certain brands; making sure to highlighting trending items; considering what packaging types are most desired; and deciding what to source conventional and organic.
Most buyers will begin with one to several brand lines, then rotate and adjust SKUs until they find a happy balance. The lines and packs that end up as a (more or less) permanent set are those SKUs that are the best quality, offered at a competitive price, and sell well.
Basically, it is the consumer who ultimately decides.
Merchandising packaged salads
Placement is key. Salad SKUs will sell in any refrigerated setting, but a multi-level shelving systems have become the norm. Fast sellers can be placed in lower shelves or by using multiple facings. SKUs that you’re trying to push (such as newer items or more profitable SKUs) work well at or near eye-level.
Mix the salad offerings up to give the set a better visual impact by incorporating refrigerated jar dressings, pre-cut vegetables, packaged mushrooms, radishes, romaine hearts, packaged butter lettuce, herbs or sprouts to provide color breaks and spark interest.
Try a mobile refrigerated case or ice-type table to promote a rotating set of salad SKUs or to push a packaged ad salad item for additional sales. Maintain the cold chain. Rotate with every stocking, examine every package – don’t just rely on the use-by date – and cull carefully.
Bulk leafy greens
Nothing quite defines the freshness of a produce department like how well the wet rack is set and maintained. This area takes arguably the most time to prep for as well as stock correctly. But the dividends are maximum sales that naturally become combined with other salad vegetables by satisfied customers to complete the shopping trip.
Produce buyers find the leafy green category is more easily identified with familiar varieties, but time has seen complimentary choices such as endive, kale, multi-colored chards and raddiccio as popular additions to round out the wet rack offerings.
Preparation is key. Leafy greens are best prepared a day ahead of time by trimming and submerging for a few minutes in clean, tepid water – then allowed to drain before storing in single-level racks in the cooler overnight. This helps reconstitute the leafy greens (much like cut flowers) so they are crisp and extra-appealing the next stocking day.
Neat rows of green and red leaf, romaine and butter are best merchandised using their natural color breaks and by alternating rows of freshly trimmed butt side and leafy side up for color and texture contrast. Handle leafy greens carefully, stock so they are arranged with plenty of space, allowing for air circulation, water draining and ease of shopping. Arrange displays neat and level for maximum appeal.
Rotate and carefully trim leafy greens with each stocking, discarding loose or unsightly leaves or undersized heads. Mist frequently but lightly with water and check automatic misters every day and adjust to avoid dry patches or over-spraying.
Many chains find wrapping leafy greens with colorful, wide foil ties helps keep the heads intact, and in fact alternative colored ties can be used in separate sections to differentiate conventional with organic offerings. Try adding an allocation of peeled red or white onions or even lemons among the leafy greens to generate interest and added color break options.
Leafy greens on the wet rack and the packaged salad category help sell your whole produce department if not the entire store. Ensure consistency and freshness by regularly stocking, culling and straightening the displays, especially prior to each busy selling period. This is not an easy chore, and many stores will assign their most experienced clerks to keep it all looking good.
Kermit the Frog said it best – “It’s not easy being green.”