Baldor’s 'Think Global, Source Local' event launches new totally transparent website

A large group of Baldor Specialty Foods’ customers and partners will be celebrating the launch of the Bronx, NY-based company’s new totally transparent website. The new Web address is being held under wraps until its unveiling at the event, and it will go online at the same time.

The celebration, titled “Think Global, Source Local,” kicks off May 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Skylight Modern in Manhattan and is organized in the true style of Baldor. The company is known for its propensity in celebrating milestones, launches and other major events in big ways, and this invitation-only launch party will be no exception.2015-03-10-14.36.35TJ Murphy, chief executive officer of Baldor Specialty Foods, and Michael Muzyk, president.

“Our new website enables Baldor to be 100 percent transparent,” Michael Muzyk, president of the company, told The Produce News. “From our perspective, the ability to open ourselves to total transparency is worthy of us arranging this event for our clients.”

When customers place their orders with Baldor, they will be able to log on to the farmer’s live inventory and learn every detail they need to know, including what is in stock and available that moment.

Muzyk pointed out that regardless if it is locally grown, such as fresh fruits and vegetables from Latham Farms in Orient, NY, or seasonal specialty produce from Babé Farms in Santa Maria, CA, customers will know immediately what is on hand and ready to be shipped.

“Be it local tomatoes or Florida citrus, all the information will be at customers’ fingertips when they log on to the new site,” said Muzyk. “This is a big gate-opener for us, and we’re very excited to be able to offer this level of transparency and convenience to our clients. It will provide the easiest, most streamlined and precise ordering experience possible.”

The evening event will feature live music, dancing and iconic dishes from around the country. Cocktails are courtesy of Bacardi, and ice-cold brews are courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery.

And those attending the celebratory launch are in for a real food treat. Baldor is bringing in high-end specialty iconic food trucks from across the country to feed guests, all using locally sourced ingredients. Participants such as Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles, Mac’s Seafood in Cape Cod, MA, Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas, Prejean’s in New Orleans, and many more will be cooking and serving up their specialty food items.

“This is an exciting and deserving event being held especially for our clients,” said Muzyk. “We’ll be unveiling a whole new way to bring the farm to you.”

POM Wonderful joins NBC’s ‘American Ninja Warrior’ for season seven

NBC and POM Wonderful announced their season-long partnership around “American Ninja Warrior.”

As part of the show’s first-ever cross-platform sponsorship on NBC, POM will join the seventh season of the action-packed series with on-air integrations, digital exclusives and a consumer-focused digital sweepstakes, as well as in-store partnership promotion. “American Ninja Warrior” premieres May 25 on NBC.

“‘American Ninja Warrior’ continues to power NBC’s summer lineup with year-over-year growth and its tremendously social and loyal audience,” Alison Tarrant, executive vice president, Client Solutions Group, NBCUniversal, said in a press release. “Our partnership with POM is a true collaboration with the show’s producers to create the most exciting, first-ever multiplatform campaign to fully uncap the show’s enthusiasm across and beyond screens. Premium content provides an unmatched environment for brands to seamlessly connect with our passionate audiences wherever they chose to consume.”

As season-long partner, POM branding will be integrated into each episode, including the “POM Crazy Healthy Run of the Night” and weekly ninja interviews in the exclusive “POM Warm Up Zone.” Each “POM Crazy Healthy Run of the Night” will feature the Ninja who delivered the most jaw-dropping feats of strength, agility and speed navigating the obstacle course. NBC and POM also will share show segments across social media platforms.

Additionally, on-air spots of POM’s “Crazy Healthy” campaign will run weekly during “American Ninja Warrior” episode airings.

“POM 100 percent pomegranate juice delivers a powerful punch of free-radical fighting antioxidants for consumers and athletes looking for a Crazy Healthy beverage,” Dahlia Reinkopf, senior director of marketing for POM Wonderful, added in the press release. “Sponsoring the show is an exceptional fit for POM 100 percent juice because American Ninja Warrior embodies the theme of our ‘Crazy Healthy’ campaign and brings it to life through real-life ‘warriors’ giving us a highly visible platform to reach and interact with the show’s large and loyal fan base.”

“American Ninja Warrior” viewers and POM Wonderful consumers can enter the “POM Ninja Warrior Sweepstakes” for a chance to win a seven-day trip for two to Japan, the ancestral home of “American Ninja Warrior.”

Beginning June 1 through Aug. 31, fans can enter online via NBC.com/POM by accessing codes under the caps of specially marked 16-ounce and larger bottles of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.

The action-packed “American Ninja Warrior” series follows competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country. Those who successfully complete the finals course in their designated region move on to the national finals round in Las Vegas, where they face a stunning four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan. The winner will take home a grand prize of $1 million.

Although many have come close, no competitor has yet to achieve total victory and claim the prize. Matt Iseman returns as host, along with former NFL player Akbar Gbajabiamila (NFL Network). Kristine Leahy (CBS Sports) joins this season as co-host.

The series is executive-produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions’ founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed (“Hell’s Kitchen,” “Wizard Wars,” “Ellen's Design Challenge”), along with Brian Richardson and Anthony Storm.

SEPC fall conference to include new mini trade show format

Southern Innovations Symposium, the newly named Southeast Produce Council fall conference, is shaping up to provide its members with yet another stellar event Sept. 17-19 in Charleston, SC, focusing on the organization’s key pillars of networking, education and community outreach.SEPC-Southern-Innovations-Symposium-Logo 4C

New to the conference this year is the Southern Innovations Bright Ideas Platform, a mini trade show showcasing the best new and innovative ideas in produce.

The Bright Ideas Platform will be held as part of the Southern Innovations Symposium on Sept. 18 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and will give all attendees of the conference the first opportunity to showcase and see new and innovative products and services that the industry has to offer.

The conference will host industry suppliers, retailers and foodservice attendees alike and will offer a new spin on industry exhibitions.

The weekend will deliver events such as a general session, educational workshops, golf, inshore fishing, a Charleston plantation tour, team building for the ladies of Southern Roots and the annual tailgate party.

The weekend will host special celebrity guests as well as live up to one of the SEPC’s focus areas of community with a special donation to a local charity.

“Charleston will offer our guests the best in Southern hospitality, while providing some of the best networking and education in the industry,” David Sherrod, SEPC executive director, said in a press release. “The new Bright Ideas Platform is shaping up to showcase the best and innovative ideas produce has to offer, and we’re looking forward to providing our members with a fresh intimate networking platform from which to build their relationships and businesses.”

All SEPC member companies are invited to apply to exhibit at the Bright Ideas Platform, but with only 50 spots available space will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications will be reviewed by the SEPC Education Committee and will need to fulfill the following requirements:

  • The qualifying product or service must be scheduled to release to market between March 23, 2015 and Dec. 14, 2015.
  • The qualifying product or service must be new to the Southeast market area.

Everyone registered for the Southern Innovations Symposium is invited to attend in the Bright Ideas Platform.

To register for the Southern Innovations Symposium or apply to exhibit at the Bright Ideas Platform, visit seproducecouncil.com.

Retail View: Whole Foods to launch value-oriented format

During its regular quarterly conference call on May 6 to discuss its financial situation with investors, publicly traded Whole Foods Market announced that it would soon be launching a value-oriented format that could eventually top the 400 stores under its regular banner.Whole-Foods-log

Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of the retailer, said in a statement, “It will deliver a convenient, transparent and value-oriented experience geared toward millennial shoppers, while appealing to anyone looking for high-quality fresh food at a great price. We believe the growth potential for this new and complementary brand to be as great as it is for our highly successful Whole Foods Market brand.”

Wall Street’s collective reaction (to the news and the financial statement) was negative, as the stock dipped 15 percent prior to the opening bell the next day to below $42 from around $48, and has traded for about $43 ever since. Retail analysts quoted in other publications also were not generally complimentary of the move.

However, several produce industry retail consultants with decades of experiences in various capacities applauded the effort and basically believe it will be successful.

“After the announcement, they got beat up pretty bad by some retail analysts,” said Dick Spezzano of Spezzano Consulting Service in Monrovia, CA. “I’m going the other way. I think they are dead-on.”

The longtime Southern California retailer said the millennials are starting to come of age and how they are going to shop is not completely known, but it is going to be different than their parents and other generations.

Spezzano said it is expected that this group, which at the upper end is approaching their mid- to late 20s, is certainly going to spend more time shopping online. But how are they going to get their groceries?

“Are they going to be delivered?” Spezzano asked. “Are they going to order them online and then pick them up at the supermarket?”

He expects Whole Foods to devote a team to develop this new format, fine-tune it over a period of time and then roll it out when they think they have it right. He said the people at Whole Foods are very good retailers and his bet is that they will do it right.

Ed Odron, another longtime retailer who consults under the banner Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting in Stockton, CA, had similar praise for the Whole Foods brain trust.

“This is a smart company,” said Odron. “They will do their homework, put a lot of thinking into picking the right locations, and I think they will be successful. I think it is a wise idea.”

Odron said Whole Foods has a great reputation, with most people thinking its quality of product is top notch. And the perception is that it only sells organic produce that is very good for you. He said that while the perception about being 100 percent organic isn’t accurate, it doesn’t matter. The consumer believes it is a healthy place to shop for their families.

“The only negative you hear is that it is high-priced,” he said.

In fact, the nickname “Whole Paycheck” for the chain is widely circulated.

“If they can open up a format that is a little more price-sensitive, I think it will work,” Odron said.

Still another longtime retailer, Ron Pelger of the RonProCon consulting group, who also writes a column for The Produce News, believes Whole Foods can make it work. He said many retailers over the years have opened a discount format and been successful. He said Whole Foods is “probably the best merchandiser in the business.” If it can keep its quality and the perception of good health, and lower some prices, it will make it, he said.

Spezzano and Odron expect the newer format to consist of smaller stores that will allow for the cutting of some costs. Pelger said Whole Foods utilizes more staff than most conventional supermarkets, and he expects it would cut down a bit on its labor in these more value-oriented stores.

Pelger said that it is difficult to make a discounted format successful. “It’s a tough nut to crack. You have to make it on high volume” and low margins, and that has not been Whole Foods’ method of operation.

Odron expects the format to still feature lots of organic produce and fresh items but at a more palatable price for the average shopper.

“The scallops at Whole Foods look great and are beautiful, but how many people are going to pay $23 to $24 per pound for scallops?” Odron asked.

He said many of the produce offerings might feature a different size product where a better price point can be offered. But he reiterated that the company’s reputation, which is very well known across the country, would offer a great boost to the new format if it can maintain the quality and provide lower prices.

Odron sees some of the stores being located in inner cities with a diverse demographic of people still concerned about healthy eating, but on a budget.

“Where they put these stores is going to be very important,” he reiterated.

Whole Foods, which has enjoyed double-digit growth in year-over-year per-store sales for many years, has seen an erosion of that growth pattern in recent years.

In fact, the latest quarter only registered an increase of about 3.6 percent. That was well below Wall Street expectations of 5.3 percent, which also had a lot to do with the falling stock price the next day. While 3.6 percent is still better than most conventional supermarkets, it is not the standard that Whole Foods has led Wall Street to expect.

Spezzano said the new format will enable the company to experiment on a smaller scale and then adopt some of the best practices for both the new format and Whole Foods stores.  

During its conference call, the executives at Whole Foods indicated that more information about the new format will be revealed by September with the first stores unveiled sometime next year.

In the Trenches: Boost sales with leading-edge auxiliary displays

Have you ever gone into a retail store with the purpose of buying only one or two specific items, but made additional purchases of other items? What prompted you to buy more than you intended?

Whether you shop at a department store, drug store, home improvement store or supermarket, products are aggressively displayed in areas other than the shelves. Auxiliary displays of promotional items and tie-ins are usually positioned in conspicuous locations to visually capture shopper’s attention with the goal of influencing incremental purchases.Berry-DisplayAuxiliary displays such as those used for these berries can be effective to help drive sales.

My wife often claims that we always wind up with more than she has on her list whenever I tag along on grocery shopping trips with her. She accuses me of picking up numerous items from the various floor displays located throughout the store, especially in the produce department. I admit to being influenced into making purchases by my own merchandising philosophy of “the advocacy of impulse.”

Some of the best promoters in auxiliary display merchandising are the beer, soda and potato chip vendors. Ever notice how they always manage to obtain key floor spots in the supermarket to set up their supplemental displays of product? And they do it in an enthusiastic and aggressive way by using exciting unique themes. Their displays are all about the entertainment in selling product.

Customers walk up and down the produce department seeking specific items they intended to buy before entering the store. The product displayed on the wall cases and tables are limited in quantities based on allowable space.

Nothing out of the ordinary really jumps out at the shoppers due to all items and varieties blended together. However, if a particular item is placed on an auxiliary display and set in the produce aisle, it will more easily be noticed and lure customers over to it, triggering incremental sales.

Auxiliary displays can increase item sales by 30-35 percent. They are the determining factor in customers making purchasing decisions. The main objective of an auxiliary display is to get customers to buy more items than they planned while they shop.

Here are some tips in perfecting auxiliary display merchandising:

Visual/Theme

Positive first impressions can dazzle customers. Make sure your display is visually attractive to immediately catch their attention. Nearly 80 percent of first impressions are visual. Add a clever theme as an incentive to draw shoppers over to the display and motivate them to make purchases.

Location

Select an area of the department or store where customers are forced to pass. Use prime selling spots like a wing alongside table ends, front of the wall case, or free-standing in an open aisle space. Stay away from dark corners, back walls or odd cubbyholes. Place what you are selling out in the open where it is conspicuous. Store lobby entrances are exceptional locations and you’ll get a sale before shoppers even enter your produce department.

Creativity

Don’t just place a few boxes on the floor and dump an item in them. Use your imagination to make your auxiliary displays unique. Customers like to be entertained while shopping. Put on a show for them by doing something exciting and different. Decorate it for additional buzz.

New

Auxiliary displays are ideal to introduce new variety items, package design changes, or just something different to consumers. Show customers something new and they become curious and immediately interested.

Growth/Profit

Use supplemental displays to increase the sales percentage of certain items or categories. In addition, utilize auxiliary displays to boost profit margin. Don’t be shy in promoting higher retail produce items off the shelf. Go after that big sale and generate additional gross profit.

Trends/Timing

Always be alert for any upcoming or latest food changes, mania, fads or even novelties approaching consumers’ interests. Then apply produce items on auxiliary displays to fit their desired needs. In like manner, consider seasonality as well, especially holidays, springtime berries, summer fruit and fall harvest.   

Selling customers additional amounts of produce over and above what they originally intended to purchase is what it’s all about. Moving that extra case or two of broccoli, tomatoes, melons or berries all adds up to putting more dollars into the produce till. Achieving higher sales and profit all depends on the way you present the product.

Remember, try not to focus only on items your customers already need. Don’t just stock the normal fixtures and think that’s all there is to it. You need to go the extra 10 yards by upselling additional items. Let auxiliary displays do the job for you. Make them captivating and entertaining.

Ron Pelger is the president and CEO of RonProCon, a consulting firm for the produce industry, and a co-founder of FreshXperts LLC, a group of produce professionals. He can be reached by phone at  775/853-7056 or 775/843-2394 (mobile) or by email at ronprocon@gmail.com.