Photos courtesy Brian Dey

Ahhh, the beautiful wet rack! The crown jewel and showpiece of every produce department.

There is no other place where one can show true produce artistry like they can here. The natural colors and textures that fresh greens provide give ample opportunity to wow your customers.

I have always tried to equate setting a wet rack to artistry. Think of it this way: fresh greens are the paint, your hands are the brush, and the counters, the canvas.

Wet rack merchandising allows you to be as creative as you want, and for a lot of us, different on any given day. The wet rack should be a showstopper and impact point in your department, and, when executed properly, it will produce a fresh image for your consumers.

Wet rack

However, great execution starts with great preparation. Looking around the produce department, I do not think there is another area that requires as much attention before it is set – attention that is so simple yet so vital to maximize shelf life and present the freshest product to your customers.

In this three-part series, we are going to show you how to get the most out of your wet racks and counters and offer some tips on how to maximize sales and profits out of every rack you set!

In this first column we’ll focus on crisping. Having a strong crisping program is the first step in setting up for wet rack success.

What is crisping?

Crisping is the process of revitalizing your fresh greens through trimming and thus introducing water back into the product. Remember, depending on where you are in the country, the product that you receive on your dock was harvested, in some cases, seven days ago.

I don’t know about you, but after a week without water I would be quite thirsty as well! The crisping process allows for those “thirsty vegetables” to take a drink.

Wet rack

How is crisping done?

  • Prepare your work area. Clean and rinse your sink. Make sure your area is free of trash and debris.
  • Fill your sink with room temperature water. Cold water doesn’t allow for water to flow through the passageways of the product, and hot water will burn leaves. This is a very important part of the process.
  • Gently remove product from its container and hold it firmly in one hand.
  • Inspect and remove broken, damaged, wilted and spoiled leaves or stalks. Trim the problem areas on product.
  • Using your knife, trim a very thin slice off of the butt of the product. The butt should be removed last to avoid removing too many good leaves.
  • Submerge the product in water and allow to soak for 3-5 minutes for most items. Some items might take longer depending on how fresh the product is out of the box or off the counter.
  • Remove product from water and allow it to drain for 3-5 minutes.
  • If you are banding product, do this after it has drained as the product expands as it absorbs water. If the product is banded first, the expansion might cause the ribs to break and results in premature rusting which will lead to reduced shelf life.
  • Place the product into your storage bin or lug and move it to the cooler. The actual crisping time varies on the condition of the product when you start the crisping process. The fresher your product is when you started will dictate the amount of crisping time needed.           

Some crisping quick tips

  • Protect crisped/prepped products from direct air flow. Cold air will cause rapid evaporation and counteract the crisping process.
  • Clean up immediately after trimming. Leaves are dangerously slippery. Work safely. Store all crisping tools together for maximum efficiency.
  • Clean the sink and knives immediately upon the completion process.

Crisping is not only for new product coming out of your coolers but also applies to existing product on your counters. After a day or so on the shelf, product already displayed might need some TLC.

Wet rack

What needs to be crisped and or prepped?

Great question, and the simple answer is anything that you might put on your wet racks. Lettuces and greens of course are easy first thoughts, but parsleys, bok choys and various other commodities might need some attention out of the box to present that picture-perfect product to the consumer.

So there you have it – you are on your way to becoming a certified Greenskeeper! Up next we will talk about setting and maintaining your wet racks.

Brian Dey is the senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Ephrata, Pa.-based wholesaler Four Seasons Produce. He’s an industry veteran with a serious passion for helping produce teams to achieve great presentation and results in their departments.


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