(Photos courtesy Four Seasons Produce)
Buffalo, N.Y.-based Lexington Cooperative Market recently went all-in on artichokes, with large displays and extensive sampling, and it reaped significant sales as a result.
The Hertel and Elmwood stores did more than 50 hours of in-store demonstrations June 12-16 about the anatomy of an artichoke and how to prepare one for grilling or steaming.
The stores offered samples of their cream of artichoke soup and stuffed artichoke recipes, and the kitchens also prepared artichoke butter and artichoke caprese from recipes by Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist.
Lexington also featured artichoke dishes on its prepared foods hot bar, including Tuscan artichokes, stuffed artichokes, artichoke penne and cream of artichoke soup.
An information table had factoid signage, brochures with health information and recipes, and Ocean Mist stickers and artichoke stress balls. There was also a golf club set giveaway as a tie-in for Father’s Day.
The Hertel store also had an outdoor event one evening that featured fajitas and grilled artichokes.
Normally, the stores sell about 21 artichokes a day on average. During the Great Artichoke Adventure promotion, the stores sold 3,209 in six days.
“One of the reasons that this was done was to create excitement around a vegetable not normally on the top of everyone’s shopping list,” said Brian Dey, senior merchandiser for Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce. “Artichokes are an extremely mysterious yet versatile and delicious commodity. Once consumers get to know more about the vegetable and its many different ways to prepare and enjoy it, their fear in not knowing what to do with it disappears.
“This promotion was a huge success in teaching the consumers of Buffalo and beyond all about the mighty artichoke,” Dey said. “Larger displays like this and creative merchandising are great in bringing product to the consumer.
"But educating, doing live demonstrations, sampling and engaging customers like the co-op did here was the key to the success of this promotion," Dey said.
The display in the Hertel store took four people five hours to build. The group building the display included Dey, National Co+op Grocers produce specialist Tim Domini; Lexington Hertel produce manager Jon Hughes, and Lexington Cooperative Market fresh category buyer Caitlin LoVullo.
“We reset the display every morning,” LoVullo said. “It was selling down so fast that it made it easy to keep artichokes available to customers. There were so many customers felt like they could find their perfect artichoke without needing to shop the top level.
“To start we had two layers of half bins, and the three full bins on the second level,” LoVullo said. “After the first day we needed to remove the outer perimeter of half bins, and on the third day the display was decreased by half the size, but we kept the height and filled two full bins in the front. It all worked!”
Lexington is hoping for increased artichoke sales over the long term because so many shoppers were introduced to the vegetable through the promotion.
”Over the next three months stores are to have larger displays of artichokes with some of the recipe cards we used by each display,” LoVullo said. “We would like to see what impact long-term this has had for artichoke sales.”