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Mission Produce ‘ups its game’ by providing more info

Avocados are a top five item for almost every produce department in the United States, which has led one avocado grower-shipper-importer to re-focus its efforts toward supplying its customers with additional category management information to help further grow sales.

Over the last several months, Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, has launched a couple of initiatives designed to help retailers maximize sales while at the same time allowing growers to maximize the sales of the fruit on the tree.

Brent Scattini, vice president of sales and marketing, recently told The Produce News “we have upped our game” by uncovering some of the nuances of the category and looking at avocados from a retail merchandising perspective. That has led the firm to develop a knowledge-based program that it calls “Avocado Intel.”

The company is engaging its customers in deep discussions about the category and honing in on strategies that can work for each customer. Scattini said an important part of those discussions is to create a size-minded approach to merchandising. He noted that every avocado tree produces a plethora of sizes from the very large avocados in the 30 per carton arena to very small avocados that are one-third that size and packed 96 pieces of fruit to a carton.

A successful grower needs to market all this fruit and a savvy retailer can find shoppers looking for fruit all along the size spectrum.

Scattini said the Mission campaign helps retailers identify what sizes sell best for their customers and where new opportunities may lie. Avocados have become a very popular item and many retailers are looking to add additional SKUs to capitalize on that popularity and boost sales.

“Our retail partners [who have taken advantage of the size-minded program] have found great success with multiple SKUs, great success with increasing their profitability and great success in meeting the needs of their customers,” said the Mission executive.

Having just returned from the Produce Marketing Association convention, where Mission was able to introduce the “Avocado Intel” program to many retailers, Scattini said the retailers were very open to getting this information.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all program,” he said, acknowledging how well that familiar axiom fits Mission’s effort.

When working with a retail partner on this campaign, Mission first comes into their marketplace and analyzes it by taking a deep drive into the data. What sells in that particular region? What kinds of ads and promotions work? For this work, the company has a full-time category manager, Jennifer Anazawa, who is responsible for analyzing the available retail scan data and helping to create a winning strategy.

Scattini said this approach “is part of our DNA.” He added that at the recent PMA convention, the Mission Produce team was not there “just to say ‘hi’. We were there to help build the category.”

He said this data-driven approach has been common in the center store for a long time and is now becoming more prevalent in the produce department. And there is probably nowhere that it makes more sense for it to be employed than the fresh produce department.

Unlike packaged products in the center store, fruits and vegetables vary in size from one season to the next, even from one week to the next. Scattini reiterated that the size-minded program is, at its core, designed to “sell the whole tree.”

Because of the very fact that certain sizes are more popular, there exist many opportunities to market the rest of the tree at varying price points and appealing to many different users.