March Melon Merchandising Madness

March Melon Merchandising Madness

With $2.6 billion in annual sales* and consistent dollar growth over the last four years, melons are a critical produce category for retailers to get right. Despite high sales figures, melons are not typically a staple item on a shopper’s list outside of holiday periods, which is why good merchandising is an important strategy to maximize sales.

With the prime melon selling season quickly approaching, here are four ways to set your melon category apart from the competition.

The power of small

The fresh produce industry continues to see an increased demand for smaller sizes. Some of this is driven by retailer pressure to have a competitive price per melon, but it’s also being driven by consumers who have smaller household sizes. Offering mini watermelons alongside traditional watermelons can bring new consumers to the category and drive incremental sales.

Contrary to popular belief, cannibalization of traditional watermelon by minis is limited as both varieties contribute to category growth. Mini watermelons are quickly gaining share in many markets and now account for 21 percent of all watermelon sales. According to a Robinson Fresh consumer research study in 2014, 93 percent of mini buyers said the size of the melons was the reason behind their purchase. Additionally, 59 percent of mini buyers won’t switch melon types, but will go to another store to buy them.

Adding by cutting

Fresh cut melon is a great way to drive category growth and entice those consumers who won’t purchase a whole melon, want the convenience of prepared food, or want to see what they are purchasing. Overall, packaged produce sales are on the rise and melons are no exception to the trend, accounting for 43 percent of the fresh cut fruit segment*. With half of fresh cut melon sales occurring in the fall and winter, retailers can place value-added melon in multiple locations in a store to capture incremental sales and impulse purchases all year long.

Give the consumer options

Carrying melon varieties beyond the core assortment can differentiate a retailer, attract new consumers, and add color that creates interest and brings attention to the category. Although they represent a small portion of overall melon sales, varietals have been on a steady growth trajectory with sales increasing around 12 percent each year for the past four years*. Three varietals retailers should consider include the Golden Honeydew, Sugar Baby watermelon, and Galia.

Make that display pop

Visual presentation, particularly in the produce department, has a significant impact on a consumer’s purchasing decision. So it’s really important for retailers to utilize every tactic they can to influence this behavior. The most common merchandising strategy is to create a large display of melons that encourages year-round sales. This strategy is not only used for the displays, but is also a way to attract shopper attention.

In lieu of a large display, retailers can take advantage of high-graphic bins that include nutritional and usage information to demand attention in the produce aisle. The bins allow for more fruit to be merchandised, and since the display is mobile, retailers can position the display in different areas both inside and outside of the produce department.

When it comes down to it, melons drive significant sales, ranking number eight in total U.S. produce sales. Because melons contribute significant topline sales to the produce department, retailers need to make sure they have a sound melon merchandising strategy. By offering a variety of melons—options such as whole, mini, and fresh cut—and utilizing unique displays, retailers can take their melon sales to new heights.

*Source: IRI Freshlook, Total U.S.

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Josh Knox

Josh Knox - Category General Manager Melons, Robinson Fresh

Josh Knox joined Robinson Fresh in 2000 and serves as the Category General Manager of Melons. In his current role, Josh is responsible for the Robinson Fresh® global supply strategy, which focuses on the process from seed to shelf. In addition to his role at Robinson Fresh, Josh sits on the National Watermelon Promotion Board and is a member of the Produce Business 40 under 40 club. Josh lives in California and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas.

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