Touch—it is one of the most potent of our five senses, driven by nerve endings that can react more strongly the longer they are ignored. Our world is increasingly removed from this human need, encouraging us to see and hear more than to taste and touch.
Amid the remoteness, the fresh department still calls to all five senses. Squeezing avocados and mangos, smelling the navels of watermelon or cantaloupe, and even tasting the grapes or berries you are shopping for. Creating sensory connections and driving emotional ties.
One partnership went a few extra thousand miles to deepen such associations by creating an in-person opportunity for the team of a The GIANT Company fresh produce department.
“Frieda’s and GIANT have always had the type of partnership where we have challenged each other to do more to bring GIANT shoppers an unforgettable experience while shopping for specialty produce. This year, I asked myself, ‘What can we do to bring an unforgettable experience for the produce buying team to make their lives easier?’ That is when I pitched the Specialty Showcase to Chris Keetch,” Alex Jackson, Vice President of Sales and Procurement at Frieda’s Branded Produce, recalls. “Before I knew it, Chris and his team were in. We designed a custom showcase in GIANT’s Camp Hill store where we worked our Frieda’s magic throughout the entire department. We walked the produce category management team through our top-selling merchandising strategies, discussing and adjusting as we went to bring ideas to life in a way only Frieda’s knows how to.”
It was an experience, I have no doubt, that will now permeate through their day-to-day interactions with shoppers. Helming the venture on GIANT’s side was Director of Produce Chris Keetch, who helped me realize the magnitude of such a move.
“Looking back on the event, what was the most successful to me was seeing the displays come to life, versus a phone call and presentation simply conceptualizing it. Instead, we saw how engaging they were to customers. Some of the displays were props due to seasonality, and customers were still picking them up to see what it was!” Chris declares.
Thinking back to my own recent experience of seeing an industry outsider’s first encounter with a dragon fruit, I can’t help but smile at Chris’ enthusiasm. Caught up in the challenges of the day-to-day, it’s easy to forget that many of the items our industry provides look fantastical—particularly in the specialty category Frieda’s commands so well.
"When thinking of the event, collaboration and strategic planning come to mind. We are working more closely together, looking further ahead, and brainstorming more ways to engage our customers. These items produce incremental sales we would not have realized without these types of meetings.”
Robert Backer, Fruit Category Manager, The GIANT Company
“We knew that The GIANT Company produce category management team would be excited about what we had in store (pun intended) for them. I could not believe how quickly we aligned on the strategies to drive more sales in this category, all by focusing on the consumer’s shopping experience,” Alex shares. “Since our walk-through, we have brought three of the programs to life and have already slated programs for this year. We at Frieda’s pride ourselves on the way we build mutually beneficial partnerships with our clients. This showcase exemplified that.”
Echoing that knack for driving sales and increasing produce consumption, Megan Klemz, Account Manager for Frieda’s, says keeping the execution effortless had a significant impact.
“Collaborating with The GIANT Company on this specialty showcase has brought our partnership to the next level. We have been able to bring big selling events to life that were easy to execute for produce department staff and increased sales velocity for GIANT,” Megan shares.
Likewise, the team-up also highlighted what helps GIANT stand out in the increasingly competitive grocery space.
“We pride ourselves on our relationships with suppliers, and there are learnings we can apply across many categories: Bring the suppliers into a store and put our best collective thinking together around not only the product, but the best way to display and educate about the products,” Chris says. “As Alex noted, Frieda’s has been a long-standing partner in the specialty and tropical sections of The GIANT Company’s produce departments. I wouldn’t say it’s a different approach, rather more of a refreshed approach to showcase variety and inspire our customers to try something new.”
Joining the specialty produce maven on strategically planned dragon fruit promotions, including Snows, Fires, and Honeys, led to GIANT increasing summer volume sales by 36 percent over the previous year, as well as selling 35 percent more units per store per week*, even without decreasing the retail price.
“Partnering with Frieda’s on the right items at the right stores at the right price and the right time of year can increase velocity and volume, a winning combination for any retailer,” Alex points out.
Alex walked down memory lane with Chris on how the partnership has stood the test of time. Ten years ago, the two worked closely to launch the “exotic set” for all AHOLD banners pre-Ahold Delhaize USA (ADUSA).
"In addition to delivering a relevant fresh assortment consistently at a value, it’s through partnerships that also help inspire customers to try something new. Keeping avenues of communication open and flexible enables the collaboration needed to align and deliver the best programs for our customers. Being able to review the opportunities through the lens of a customer in-store helps offer a different point of view; display location and creative ways of marketing which speak to product attributes and recommended usage.”
Josh Geyer, Vegetable Category Manager, The GIANT Company
“A lot has changed since then; consumer preference, Frieda’s go-to-market strategy, and The GIANT Company standing as its own entity in the ADUSA family of companies. The focus of the specialty showcase was to see, in real life, what is possible at the store level,” Alex reflects. “To bring excitement to specialty merchandising without cluttering the department with items that don’t sell proved again to be the key to success to drive sales in this category. It was an honor to do this with Chris and his team. We can’t wait for the plans we have this year.”
Whether it is the grizzled shell of a coconut, the leafy flames of a dragon fruit, the spongy exterior of a rambutan, or even the firm handshake of a long-trusted partner, touch is a critical component not just of our industry, but our humanity. It is in these moments where we go the extra mile—or even across the country—that we can prove there is no department like the produce department.
*Circana ADUSA Giant Martin’s Div-RMA-Food 12 weeks data period ending 11-5-23.