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Bins offer merchandising opportunities for produce

When Sunkist's director of retail merchandising, Julie DeWolf, came from a consumer product group company to the nation's largest citrus marketer, she was surprised that retail display bins weren't in the firm's marketing arsenal.

On the consumer products side, it was a well-developed and well-used strategy. "They offer an excellent opportunity to get a display in a secondary location," she said.

NMB As such, DeWolf began developing a display bin program for Sunkist. Today the marketing cooperative has a number of different bins in various sizes with various marketing messages. There is one touting lemons as a "S'alternative," another pushing the large pomelo fruit and still others for Navels, Valencias, Cara Cara Navels, Meyer lemons and multi-variety marketing. Several of the bins come with interchangeable header cards allowing for multiple product uses at retail.

DeWolf said that depending upon the size of the bin, the display can be set up in the produce department or any other department.

"As compared to other produce, citrus is very compatible with a number of departments," she said. "Seafood is a perfect example and so is the beer and liquor department. Citrus is used for making many different cocktails so we get a lot of requests for smaller units in the liquor department."

DeWolf said there are more challenges that must be overcome when dealing with produce as compared to CPG products, but the rewards are plentiful for both the retailer and the supplier.

"There is a big difference logistically ," said DeWolf. "CPG display bins are typically pre-packed. You just ship the bin to the store and they put it up."

When she first started developing the Sunkist bin program, "we had to crack the code logistically." While Sunkist does offer a pallet-type bin with 800 pounds of fruit that is delivered and dropped typically in the produce department, most of its offerings in this category are smaller display bins designed to carry one or two cartons of fruit and be set up in a secondary location within the store.

The transportation cost for fresh produce is relatively expensive, compared to CPG products, so the product needs to be shipped in a standard carton to best utilize the cube of a truck. Bins are shipped flat to also defray shipping costs.

DeWolf said that once this logistical challenge was solved, display bin utilization started to grow and it has continued to gain favor. While it is difficult to measure sales gains, she said a secondary display does add sales and also allows for consumer education.

For example, she said the pomelo bin allows for graphics and verbiage that give utilization ideas to the consumer. The same with the "S'alternative" bin, which graphically tells the consumer that lemons are a great and healthy alternative to salt. The bins for Cara Cara Navels and Meyer lemons can serve as educational material for the consumer.

The National Mango Board uses bins in much the same way. Wendy McManus, retail program manager for the board, said that NMB first added bins to its merchandising program in 2013.

"In 2013, we distributed more than 7,000 bins," she said. "In 2014, we jumped to more than 9,000 bins. Retailers give us high marks for the construction, durability and graphics on our bin design."

NMB works with retailers on bin orders and bin placement, according to McManus, who said, "The NMB gives our partner retailers lots of options for how they can use their promotional funds to move more mangos. For retailers that choose bins as their promotion strategy, we provide them directly to the retailer."

This past year, NMB also distributed bins through its shippers, offering about 1,000 bins on a first-come, first-served basis, and asked the shippers to distributeSunkist Meyer-lemons those bins to smaller retailers. NMB designs and ships the bin free of charge.

"I worked closely with our bin vendor to design a corrugated plastic bottom tray with sliding casters to ensure that the bins could be moved easily and would not be damaged by spills or wet mops," McManus said.

The bins come in two sizes holding either six or 13 cartons of fruit, designed to work in both small- and larger-format stores.

McManus said that for an item such as mangos "the major benefit is display space. We ask the retailers to use the bins as a secondary display, in addition to their regular mango display. We've seen mango bins placed at the front of the department, the front of the store, or even the seafood department with a recipe suggestion."

She said the bins provide a high-graphic education opportunity. "Our mango bins use colorful images to teach shoppers how to select, ripen and cut a mango."

Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international at the Idaho Potato Commission, said that the potato industry has been using large shipping bins for many years. The concept is the same as for citrus and mangos, but the execution is a bit different.

The bins still are used as a secondary display to increase sales of potatoes, but while Sunkist bins are often small and tucked into secondary departments, potato bins are huge and used typically to facilitate large displays and great pricing in or near the produce department.

Pemsler said the two bins most often used with potatoes hold either 1,000 or 2,000 pounds of products.

"It's a great selling tool for a retailer," said Pemsler.

He said the bins are always used with bagged potatoes and almost certainly include a promotional price. He said it is of great help to a retailer during a blowout sale, for example, because a bin with 200 bags needs much less attention than a typical potato display table that might only hold a couple of dozen bags of product. Once the product is sold, the bin can be collapsed and recycled with the rest of the cartons.

The IPC executive said the bin is typically in the produce department or near it in a value-oriented part of the store. But he said the secondary placement remains the key point which helps increase visibility and thus sales.

"I have been in stores where eight or nine people out of 10 will pick up a bag from one of these bins," said Pemsler.

He, like the others, said it is very difficult to gauge the sales lift as one would need to create a controlled experiment to accurately gauge how much the bin contributed to the increased sales and how much was generated by the value price.

"But the sales lift is huge -- I'd say at least 50 to 100 percent," said Pemsler.

Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms in Vidalia, GA, agreed with Pemsler that for hardware items such as onions, bin marketing is a well-worn concept.

"We've been doing it for 15 years," he said. "With the high graphics on the bin, it serves as a billboard letting the customer know about our product. It is a tremendous sales tool."

Bland Farms has a bin for its popular Vidalia onions and also has a combo bin that holds both onions and sweet potatoes. He said that bin has proven to be quite popular and it has received front-of-the-store treatment in some retail outlets.

Bland said most retailers are well equipped to deal with large bin shipments at their distribution centers. His bins hold about 600 pounds of product. While bin sales are often involved in a promotional situation, Bland said the high cost of creating and printing the graphics make the packaging cost very similar to an equal poundage of onions or sweet potatoes in 40-pound cartons.

"For retailers, the big savings is in labor," said Bland. "They just have to get it out on the floor and that's it."

From a retail perspective, Don Murphy, director of produce and floral operations for Grocery Outlet, a Berkeley, CA-based chain, agreed with all of the supply-side representatives that bins "are a great tool to promote additional sales."

He sees bins as a "satellite display that create another opportunity to sell the product."

Talking about the huge bins that hold hundreds of pounds of product and the smaller display bins, Murphy said, "it's all about the high graphics," which draw the attention of the consumer and produces the additional sale.

He said the larger bins offer a labor savings as they fall into the "drop, sign and sell" category, meaning retailers don't have to work them like a typical table or wet rack display.

The Grocery Outlet chain operates in the discount supermarket sector, so Murphy said the promotional price that typically accompanies large bin displays is attractive to his customers.

While space is often at a premium in the 175 owner-operator stores that he services, Murphy said, "if it's a good deal, I can usually find a home for the bin."


National Mango Board appoints new director of marketing

The National Mango Board recently named Rachel Muñoz as its new director of marketing.

Muñoz contribution to the NMB will serve to strengthen the board’s mission to increase fresh mango consumption in the United States.

As director of marketing, Muñoz will oversee marketing and public relations for consumer, nutrition, retail and foodservice programs, as well as manage trade shows and website communications. In addition, she will collaborate with the management team in developing marketing concepts, tactics and campaigns — all designed to push forward the NMB’s mission.

image002Rachel Muñoz Muñoz comes to the NMB with a wealth of consumer-focused retail merchandising and marketing experience. Her career has been fueled by her passion of connecting people to products they love. Most recently, she was part of the Home Shopping Network team where she selected a range of products and developed on-air presentations about them.

Muñoz also managed over 20 brand assortments and their marketing plans, ensuring success through television and digital sales. Prior to that, she managed the growth of several top electronic vendors and brands through major delivery channels for Best Buy Corporate.

Throughout her career, Muñoz has been a member of the Women of Leadership Forum and Hispanic Business Network where she had the chance to be an advocate for diversity in the workplace. She was also a member of Connect Team, where she worked in supporting the organization’s employee engagement. 

Muñoz attended University of Texas-PanAmerican, where she received a bachelor’s of business administration. She was born in Miami and at a young age moved with her family to her father’s native country, Ecuador. There, she spent 10 years, while her love for mangos developed, before moving back to the United States. In her spare time, Muñoz volunteers with Sally’s House Foster Care, enjoys visiting friends and family in St. Petersburg, FL, and is a music and concerts enthusiast.

“We get very few chances to see the development, transition and transcendental growth of an organization,” stated Manuel Michel, executive director of the NMB. “Having Rachel on board completes and solidifies the first steps of a new era of evolution that the NMB and mango industry will face in coming years.”

SEPC to honor Terry Vorhees with Lifetime Achievement Award


The Southeast Produce Council will honor Terry Vorhees at the end of February with its highest honor, its Lifetime Achievement Award. The award will be presented posthumously at Southern Exposure, the council's conference and trade show, scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 2015, at the Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center in Orlando, FL


Vorhees, one of the founders of the council and its first executive director, died July 30 at the age of 64. This will be the first time that the award will be presented posthumously. Many members of the Vorhees family will be on hand to accept the award, according to David Sherrod, who succeeded Vorhees as the council's executive director.

Joe McGee, founder of the L&M Family of Companies, received the first Lifetime Achievement Award back in 2008, followed by Ferdinand S. Duda of A. Duda & Sons Inc. in 2009; Peter Pero III of Pero Family Farms in 2010; Tommy Irvin, a former commissioner of agriculture in Georgia, in 2011; Reggie Griffin, retired from The Kroger Co., in 2012; Paul J. DiMare of DiMare Fresh in 2013; and Tom Page, retired from Supervalu Inc. and a former president of the council, in 2014.


"There was no question this year that Terry would receive the award," Sherrod told The Produce News Nov. 10. "He was the only choice for all of us. This is for everything Terry has meant to the council and for what he has meant to each and every one of us here."

The award, which is co-sponsored by the council and The Produce News, will be presented during the keynote luncheon and general session Saturday, Feb. 28.

For additional information about Southern Exposure or to register for the event, visit


HLB Specialties in full swing with papayas for holiday season

HLB Specialties, a Pompano Beach, FL-based distributor of a full-line of tropical produce items with a focus on papayas, is promoting a good supply of high-quality papayas during the holiday season.

Homero Levy de Barros, president of HLB Specialties, said the company sources the large Formosa variety papayas for the U.S. market primarily from Guatemala and Mexico, and both regions are in a period of maximum production, with no issues of weather that could cause an interruption in supply.

IMG 1227 "Papayas are grown year round, but they are extremely sensitive, and July, August and September are months when there could be complications due to rain and hurricanes," said Levy de Barros. "But now we are in a period when there should be no complications from weather and we can offer a consistent supply with peak eating quality."

Levy de Barros said he anticipates strong supply from Guatemala for the next seven months and from Mexico for the next five to six months.

Papayas from Mexico are only 18 hours from farm to border, said Levy de Barros. As a result, they offer retailers an extended shelf life of up to three-and-a-half weeks. Papayas from Guatemala spend five days in transit, but still offer a shelf life of approximately two-and-a-half weeks.

HLB also sources the smaller Golden papaya variety from Brazil through its grower Caliman. New for Brazilian papayas this year is a two-pack clamshell for retail in addition to a four-pack clamshell for club stores.

The clamshell packs offer several advantages over bulk fruit, including reduction of bruising and subsequent shrink; increased hygiene because people do not touch them; and delays in moisture loss, which extends the life and quality of the fruit.

"Some fruit in the supermarkets looks beaten up, and the clamshell packs reduce damage to the fruit and can increase sales," said Levy de Barros. "It's all about delivering quality to consumers and bringing a healthy profit to the trade. We always try to decrease the cost to the trade as much as possible. If prices are low and quality is high, they will be able to sell a lot more fruit."

Levy de Barros said the winter time is when the best-tasting fruit is available, and he is excited to have ample fruit to promote during the holiday season. In fact, he advocates for making papayas a part of the holiday menu.

"Papayas are extremely healthy and have an enzyme that aids in digestion," he said. "So if people end their big holiday meal with papaya for dessert instead of pumpkin pie, they will feel a lot better."


CMI announces appointment of Patella to marketing team

Columbia Marketing International, based in Wenatchee, WA, announced the appointment of Don Patella to its marketing team. Patella, who will telecommute from his home in Arizona, will manage key retail accounts, developing timely promotions and provide tools to assist his customer's in strengthening their produce categories.

With over 20 years of retail experience at Kroger, Patella has expertise in the area of growing profitable produce returns and will help CMI advance customer initiatives.

Patella has held various management and supervisory positions within Kroger and most recently was a regional merchandiser covering four Kroger divisions spanning across 14 states with the primary focus on local suppliers, products and marketing across all departments within the store.

"Understanding the dynamics of optimal selling performance is critical to both our growers and our retail customers" Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI, said in a press release. "We're excited about Don joining our team because he brings nearly 25 years of retail experience to CMI. We're confident that he will be a terrific resource in the years to come in working closely with our customers to identify strategies and opportunities to drive sales of CMI apples, pears and cherries."