March 2012
Five keys to growing fresh retail sales By Don Ladhoff, Retail marketing consultant, U.S. Potato Board

One of the highlights of the fresh breakouts at Potato Expo 2012 was a presentation covering new research that the United States Potato Board (USPB) conducted into the potato shopper, studying perceptions and behaviors before and during the shopping trip.

The presentation stressed five key findings, and the implications they hold for retailers seeking to grow their potato sales.

USPB’s landmark shopper study

The study, conducted in late 2011 with more than 1,900 primary food shoppers, found that fully 91 percent of fresh potato purchases are planned, representing a significant increase from research conducted just one year earlier. The study also found the potato shopper is more prepared than other shoppers, indexing higher for reading circulars, clipping coupons, making a shopping list and planning out their meals in advance.

Yet once in the store, these same potato shoppers are more engaged in the act of shopping, wandering the aisles for ideas and seeking inspirations for new and different meals. Taken together, this suggests retailers should be focusing more on ways to increase consumption and get potatoes on the shopping list, rather than trying to chase impulse sales in the store.

Five opportunities for retailers

1. Give shoppers suggestions and new ideas for serving potatoes more often
With more than nine out of 10 potato purchases being planned, retailers can generate much greater sales over the long run by working to increase consumption, and likely enhance shopper loyalty in the process. The key to getting fresh potatoes in the cart more often is getting them on the shopping list more often.

2. Attract potato shoppers to increase sales around the store
The study reconfirmed what a tremendous asset potato shoppers are to a retailer, ringing up twice the sales as non-potato purchasers and spending an incredible 10 extra minutes shopping, with making meals on their mind. Retailers can capitalize on this by showcasing potatoes’ compatibility with foods in high-margin perimeter departments and throughout the store, and by suggesting potato pairings that spur additional purchases during those 10 bonus minutes.

3. Feature potatoes regularly and highlight their value
The research found that when preparing for the shopping trip, potato shoppers are well organized, seek out savings and are strongly influenced by their family. In short, potato shoppers want to please their families while feeling smart about their food purchases, so retailers should constantly reinforce what a good value potatoes are, while reminding shoppers how much their families enjoy them.

4. Use potatoes as a pillar in meal solution programs
While in the store, potato shoppers are actively engaged and seeking meal ideas, enjoying the shopping occasion as they look for a new idea to bring back home to their families. Retailers can capitalize on this behavior by providing potato inspirations throughout the store, and featuring potatoes prominently in their meal solution programs to encourage the increased consumption, which in turn leads to more frequent purchases.

5. Make the potato table an in-store destination
The most startling finding of the study was that shoppers find the potato table to be well organized, but falling far short on providing the information and ideas that would inspire increased purchases and consumption. Yet potatoes have arguably more upside potential than any other vegetable, as research has repeatedly found consumers are open to serving potatoes more often, but crave new recipes and ideas for serving them.

The implication for retailers is to move from merely being organized to actively providing inspiration to potato shoppers, reengineering the potato table to become a hub for dispensing information on nutritional benefits and the differing qualities of potato types, while motivating their shoppers with recipes, preparation tips and serving suggestions.

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