Berries are one of the few remaining categories that still have an air of seasonality about them, and that’s something retailers tend to use to their advantage.
At Donelan’s Supermarkets Inc., a group of five stores based in Littleton, Mass., Matt Dee, director of produce, expands his berry set from 4 feet to 12 feet every spring and summer.
“We triple the size of our berry displays for May, June and July,” he said.
Early in the season, about 3 feet of the display is taken up by strawberries from Canada, then local berries come in for two to three weeks before Canadian fall berries arrive, he said.
Local berries usually don’t hold up as long as those from the major grower-shippers, but they have a higher water content and taste sweeter, Dee said.
And shoppers seem attracted to the throwback packaging.
“The customers see the old-fashioned pulp container instead of the plastic clamshell,” he said.
Donelan’s also expands its packaging options in the spring and summer.
Instead of just offering a 6-ounce container of raspberries, for example, Dee orders 12-ounce clamshells as well.
“So you’ve got two options for raspberries,” he said.
He also adds a 2-pound strawberry option as well as the usual 1-pounder.
Palmer’s Market Inc., Darien, Conn., also features local berries during the summer but offers a full line of Driscoll’s berries as well, said produce manager Mike Manginelli.
One-pound strawberries definitely are the bestselling berry item.
“Occasionally, we’ll get a 2-pound, and we’ll put it on sale,” he said, but that’s a rarity.
“(Shoppers) love the 1-pound packages,” Manginelli said. “It’s a little more convenient for the families around here.”
Manginelli prefers pint containers of blueberries and displays 6-ounce clamshells of blackberries and raspberries.
Locally grown strawberries come in pint- and quart-size foam baskets with a net overwrap.
Berries seem to be a favorite ad item for retailers.
At Donelan’s, Dee runs strawberries, blueberries or cherries on ad every week during the summer.
One-pound clamshells of strawberries that usually sell for $3.99 go on ad at two for $5, he said.
In early May, he scheduled an ad featuring pints of first-of-the-season Georgia blueberries at two for $5. They’re regularly $3.99 a pint.
Lowest price for blueberries will be two for $4 for the stores’ Fourth of July ad.
Berries typically account for 6% of Donelan’s produce sales, but when they’re featured in a berry patch promotion or Fourth of July sale, that figure surges to 9%, Dee said.
Dee displays berries in the middle of the produce department.
“You don’t necessarily have to put them front and center because (shoppers) will look for them,” he said.
If they’re on sale, the stores set up multiple displays.
Donelan’s cross merchandises berries with high-margin dessert shells or biscuits made from scratch in the bakery, he said.
At Palmer’s Market, Manginelli cross-merchandises strawberries with lady fingers, dessert shells or crepes from the bakery as well as chocolate dips.
Palmer’s doesn’t feature strawberries on ad because prices can fluctuate wildly, he said.
But blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are on sale from time to time, usually at two 6-ounce packages for $5. Regular price is $4.99.
Driscoll’s organic berries also sell well at Palmer’s.
“They sell just as good as the regular ones — sometimes a little better,” Manginelli said.