There’s more to raisins than just grandma’s cookies — giving them a little location love and promotion can plump up sales.
Originally printed in the May 2022 issue of Produce Business.
Raisins are a great fit for produce — they are a shelf-stable packaged item and don’t require refrigeration or special handling. Plus, says Linda Kay Abdulian, president and chief executive at National Raisin Company in Fowler, CA, “in-store merchandising is significantly easier versus fresh produce. In many respects, raisins are one of produce’s hedges against shrink.”
Retailers may find customers more willing to purchase raisins when associated with produce. “Most of the time, customers look directly to produce for fresh products, and dried fruit and raisins are no exception,” says Mike DiDonato, produce manager at Shoprite in Drexel Hill, PA. “Raisins fit well with the health trend of produce and have a long shelf life.”
National Raisin Company’s ongoing efforts show dried fruit posts highest velocity where retailers merchandise the category in produce, versus anywhere else in the store, according to Abdulian. “Given produce’s high margins, this is a win-win at the corporate level,” she says.
1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As in real estate, location plays a huge factor in raisin sales. “Raisins in produce always command better profit margins than center store placements,” says Dennis Housepian, president of Caruthers Raisin Packing in Caruthers, CA.
DiDonato suggests retailers add more space to increase raisin sales. “To justify dedicating more space to raisins, most stores need the sales,” he says. “But, one depends on the other. So sometimes it’s just a matter of taking the risk and trying to eventually see the sales increase.”
Using shippers offers retailers flexibility for size of display, promoted SKU, in-store placement and timing. “At National Raisin, we work with our customers to design attractive, informative shippers generating consumer excitement and product usage,” says Abdulian.
Harry Overly, president and chief executive at Sun-Maid Growers of California in Fresno, CA, sees a number of creative ways retailers inspire sales for raisins. “Beyond an end-cap or POS material, placement of raisins in relation to other ingredients is extremely beneficial,” he says. “Anywhere that might normally include dried cranberries — which have added sugar — is a great option to include raisins: Salad ingredients, by charcuterie options and even in more seasonal displays for baking, all open consumers’ eyes to more possibilities and to see raisins in a new, more versatile way.”
2. PUBLICIZE HEALTH BENEFITS
Produce departments are the epicenter of healthy eating. “With consumers moving to healthier eating and produce being the highest traffic area in a store, raisins are the perfect fit,” says Housepian. “They are 100 percent real fruit, all natural, no preservatives, no cholesterol, fat free and gluten free.”
Promoting shelf life fits into current concerns. “With inflation, shoppers are worried about the cost to the pocket,” says DiDonato. “Raisins are a great way to substitute nutritional intake without worrying about throwing some of it out.”
3. PROMOTE VISIBLY
Raisins are impulse-oriented and promotionally responsive. “Data shows secondary display activity drives incremental sales most efficiently,” says Abdulian. “Successful raisin promoting includes high-frequency scheduling of thematic tie-ins, holiday promotions and cross-category merchandising. In addition, strategic leveraging of private label raisin programs prior to holidays encourages pantry loading and increased store brand sales.”
4. PAIR WITH PRODUCE PARTNERS
Produces can add incremental sales by cross-merchandising raises with a host of items. “Raisins go great with dates, figs, currents or anything dried,” says Shoprite’s DiDonato. “Look for products with complementary health benefits.”
Stores can capitalize on the versatility of raisins. “Shoppers often shop with a mindset of dishes/meals and by including the dried fruit in the same area as produce, retailers help consumers make a stronger connection to the entire ingredient list and help make associations to real, whole options such as raisins,” says Overly.
Retailers drive consistent category sales by offering assortment in single-service sizes, mid-range sizes and larger baking-oriented sizes, suggests Abdulian. “Category sales are maximized by supporting high-quality private label and national brands. One key for continued growth is through new packaging alternatives, emphasizing increased food safety and environmental sustainability.”
Stores should also offer different varieties of raises. Stephanie Blackwell, president of Aurora Products, Orange, CT, explains varieties include Thompson, Golden, Flame, Red and Hunza. “Call out the type of raisin and perhaps where they are grown,” she says.
Packaging and innovative products also help drive sales. “The stand-up, zipper reclosable bags have been the most popular package type,” says Housepian. “They are easy to display and handle.”
National Raisin Company has introduced Raisels, fruit-flavored golden sour raisins. “They appeal to kids, to their taste profile, with bold flavors made with whole fruit,” says Abdulian. “Have your candy, eat your fruit — Raisels!”
Sun-Maid is reimagining raisins in terms of snacking. “We’re showing new ways to experience the whole fruit — including our Fruity Raisin Snacks that come in new, different fruity flavors, as well as yogurt-covered raisins in several flavors, which still feature the whole-fruit raisin at its core, says Overly.