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Frozen fruit dollar sales rose slightly in 2011.
Better positioning can lead to increased frozen fruit sales.
In-store sampling and instructional selling can help sales too.
The winter months can offer opportunities to increase frozen fruit sales, but in order for retailers to tap that potential, experts say they need to consider implementing some new merchandising techniques. They include moving frozen fruit to the produce section, holding sampling events and educating consumers about the potential flavor and nutrition benefits frozen fruit can offer over fresh produce.
The frozen fruit category saw total sales of more than 111 million units in 2011, a 0.66-percent decrease over the previous year, according to Chicago-based market research firm SymphonyIRI Group. The dollar value of those sales represented a 1.47-percent increase over the previous year to more than $380 million. Private label frozen fruit products accounted for the majority of those sales, bringing in more than $281 million in 2011, a 3.55-percent increase over the previous year. Experts say there’s room to grow those sales significantly, but retailers will have to make some changes.
“There’s a big opportunity for frozen fruit, but I think there’s still the competitive nature of the fresh produce, which is generally positioned at the front of the store versus the back,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based foodservice consulting firm Technomic Inc. “I think for frozen fruit to really grow, supermarkets may need to consider moving those frozen fruits into the actual produce area…because if it’s positioned in the back in the frozen food section, [customers] don’t always think of it as ‘fresh-frozen,’ they just think of it as frozen.”
If moving frozen fruit to the produce area isn’t an option, Vanessa Beltran, business manager for Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Dole Food Co. Inc., suggests at least moving it next to frozen vegetables and giving it a little more space.
“Right now, consumers have a hard time finding [frozen fruit],” she said. “It’s usually placed in the frozen dessert section or with the pie fillings, which is not the best place to find frozen fruit, which is really healthy. We encourage retailers to place frozen fruit next to frozen vegetables, which makes it really easy for consumers to shop both of these ingredients.”
But frozen fruit isn’t as familiar as frozen vegetables, so customers may require a bit of education via in-store signage, frozen fruit packaging or advertising circulars to warm up to the idea.
“You have to help people with frozen,” says Richard George, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “’What do I do with it? What is frozen fruit? What happens when you freeze fruit?’ People think that’s not a good thing, so there’s a lot of education that should happen here.”
Of course, one of the best ways to show customers what frozen fruit tastes like is to offer them a bite, so Phil Lempert, editor of SuperMarketGuru.com and The Lempert Report, advocates sampling as a means to get the word out.
“It’s about sampling these fruits,” he says, “just in little cups or spoons, and putting up signage that compares the taste, nutrient value and price.”
Of course, not all retailers face the same issues. For southern retailers, winter is a peak time for fresh produce.
But even in warm climates, customers are concerned with the lifespan of their fruit, and retailers can benefit from promotional efforts that remind customers that frozen fruit offers the benefit of ripeness without a time window.