Buzzfeed’s produce department advice

Buzzfeed’s produce department advice

What elements can a produce department add to create a better trip for the shopper?

Usually the answers we hear are buzzwords: convenience, sustainability, inspiration. I came across a few more specific and actionable ideas in a surprising place recently — on the website Buzzfeed. It posted a piece titled “16 Things That Are Going to Make You Ask, ‘Why Doesn’t Every Store’s Produce Section Have This?’” 

About half of the suggestions boiled down to what industry members would consider standard presentations of basic ripeness and selection information. 

There was a sticker on a mango that showed what color the fruit would be when the flavor was optimal. There was an avocado ripeness chart, as well as an avocado display sorted into ripe and unripe fruit. There was information on a sign about broccoli florets that detailed how to select, store and prepare the vegetable.

One box included a diagram of how to cut a lime in order to get the most juice out of it, and another display had overripe bananas in bags with recipes for banana bread and smoothies.

Another item on the list was a chart that showed when different produce items were available locally.

These examples aren’t anything new to folks in the produce industry, yet Buzzfeed spotlighted them as so helpful that all stores should have them.

The Packer’s Fresh Trends consumer survey also underscores the need for such tips. One of the questions on the survey was about which produce items people were comfortable selecting ripe for immediate consumption. Sixty percent of people reported they were confident selecting a ripe banana, but the number was less than 50% for every other commodity on the list except tomatoes, from cantaloupe to avocados to pears to mangoes.

Because people in the industry know so much about these products, sometimes it is easy to forget that many consumers know next to nothing about them. It might not be feasible to have selection and preparation information for every commodity that ripens or might be less familiar — artichokes and eggplants, for example — but you can choose a few to feature and switch it up every week or every couple of weeks, or provide information based on what’s in peak season.

Some of the other elements that Buzzfeed noted were in the area of sustainable packaging, including paper bags for holding grapes and banana leaves for wrapping vegetables. 

I’m not sure how feasible those suggestions are from a cost and labor perspective, but it’s important to consider that shoppers are noticing those sustainability efforts. A Misfits display, with cosmetically off-spec fruit marked down for purchase, also received praise from Buzzfeed.

One of the more interesting elements on the list was a miniature cranberry “bog” to promote the fruit. I’ve got some food safety and shelf life questions on that one, but I can also say definitively that if I saw one of those in a store, I would absolutely stop and check it out, and my likelihood of purchasing cranberries would be higher than it would otherwise.

Designing creative experiences for the produce department is awesome, but my takeaway from the Buzzfeed list is that consumers appreciate some of that basic info more than we know.

Ashley Nickle is editor of Produce Retailer magazine and retail editor of The Packer. E-mail her at anickle@farmjournal.com.

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