Working in the FRESH produce department keeps you on your toes. It is constantly changing, demanding and challenging. Each week, FreshGuru adds in some hidden knowledge gleaned from produce professionals. We believe that by educating and creating awareness with you, with cashiers and store owners, we will all do more to encourage shoppers to enjoy the pure joy of fruits and vegetables.  The more we enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies that are grown by farmers in Canada and around the world, the more we contribute to the sustainability of our own food.


Fast approaching: Fresh Summit where produce buyers go

Newark, Del. — When Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Summit Convention & Expo gets underway in Orlando, FL, USA on Oct. 18-20, attendees will enjoy a new experience at the global produce and floral industry’s largest gathering in the Americas – including “Forums for the Future” with big voices speaking on big topics that will bring attendees together for engaging, inspiring collective experiences.  Many Canadian buyers attend this event to connect with growers, industry experts, packaging groups and the like.

Fresh Summit’s “Forums for the Future” will present four big voices from inside and outside of the fresh produce industry. These large sessions will bring together the fresh produce and floral community from across the supply chain to engage, be inspired and return to your businesses motivated. 

Peyton Manning, two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and five-time Most Valuable Player of the National Football League, is the first “Forum for the Future” speaker to be revealed.

“From the moment you walk in, Fresh Summit will feel different, from the convention format to the expo show floor,” said Charles Olins, Concord Food’s vice president of sales and marketing, and co-chair of PMA’s Fresh Summit Committee. “So much in our business and the cultural marketplace in which we operate is changing, we want to ensure that Fresh Summit is in the best position to help our industry to be ready for those changes.”

The Forums for the Future will be grouped at the beginning of the convention, with three planned throughout the day on Thursday, Oct. 18 and the final session on Friday morning, Oct 19. 

A refresh of Fresh Summit’s networking functions will make it easier for attendees to connect with each other outside of official Fresh Summit events. Most of PMA’s community-based networking functions are being concentrated into one exciting Welcome Reception on Thursday, Oct. 18.

“We know you come to Fresh Summit for the business connections, and these changes will help you do more of just that,” said Leah Halverson, Black Gold Farms director of business development and co-chair with Olins of the Fresh Summit Committee. “This year, it will be easier for the people you want to see to reach you, and for you to reach the people you want to see.”

Fresh Summit expo is a record breaker

What’s not changing is Fresh Summit’s renowned expo on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19-20. This year is expected to be the largest Fresh Summit expo on record, with 1,200+ exhibiting companies over 330,000+ net square feet. Floral buyers and sellers will come together in an expanded show-within-a-show Floral Marketplace that is designed to meet the growing needs of mass-market floral buyers and sellers.

Attendees can tap into PMA’s staff subject matter experts on extensive topics ranging from food safety to technology to supply chain management and traceability, through the PMA Center conveniently located on the show floor.

For more information and to register, visit The All Access Pass is the best value, and includes all Forums for the Future, the Welcoming Reception and the expo. Retailers receive significant registration discounts. Register by Sept. 14 and save; on-site registration will also be available in Orlando.



A seasonal changeover in your Produce Dept is a big deal.  In fact, it’s a customer service event like no other. The big retailers consider it as a timely announcement to their patrons that a new season is emerging and because of that, there are new products available in the store.

Switching seasons in the Produce dept is a pivotal event for your P&L as well. It requires serious planning that includes merchandising, procurement, and file maintenance. Inclusive collaboration with these groups help Produce Managers create a concise statement of the primary goal and enabling objectives.  The catalyst for all this preparation culminates in precision scheduling of staff. The labour plan must be sufficient to successfully execute the chronology of events required to complete the change. 

Planning for the autumnal switch should be in progress now. As with any seasonal change, it must be expedited in quick-time.  And when it’s ready to be showcased to your customers, your staff and your department will be duly equipped to reap the reward of increased sales activity right from the get-go!.

There are lots of ways to proceed with a seasonal change but only a few that will help sustain your sales and profit forecasts. Here are some general guidelines you can consider when you sit down to write your plan.

  1. Assign one person to be in charge of ‘signage’.
  2. Execute!


©️Craige Harris Consulting July 2018


Celery - an essential culinary ingredient

Mention celery to any group of people and most of them will immediately think about their ‘diet’.  Yet celery, while certainly renowned for its low caloric output, is also a marvellous culinary item to have around at all times.

First, it can be consumed raw or cooked, and it’s freezable. As a note, cooking is the only option for use after freezing. Next, there’s the robust nutrient value. Consider that 1 cup (101 grams) of diced raw celery renders only 16 calories, but also offers a total of 15 notable minerals and vitamins.  These important nutrients range at the high end, from Vitamin K and B2, to copper, calcium and Vitamin C, and all the way to Vitamin A and magnesium. Celery is also rated as a ‘very low’ GI (glycemic index) food.

There are 4 commercial varieties of celery.  Leaf celery (aka Chinese celery), green stalk celery and celery hearts, as well as root celery (aka celeriac). Leaf celery and celeriac are primarily cooking vegetables while stalk celery renders well either raw or cooked. Celery hearts are best enjoyed raw because of their tenderness.

The best celery is pale green to white in colour. Avoid celery where the stalks are a dark green and those showing heavily ribbed stalks.  The intense green is indicative of a heavy chlorophyl content.  The sharp ribbing on the stalks on the other hand, speaks to an immature vegetable.  Treat both observations as red flags for a tough and bitter eating experience.

Also be wary of celery bunches with cracked or hollow stalks, or that display yellowed leaves. And the final check point, is that your selection should be heavy for its size.

At home, re-trim the root end and cut off the leafy ends stalks just below the 2nd growth-knuckle. Next, wash celery thoroughly and then store it intact, inside a plastic bag or other type of container.  As there is still a ‘certain’ energy of life remaining in post-harvest celery, the stalks stand up much better when still connected to the root end. When using your celery, remove the entire stalk(s), wash them thoroughly and use as required.

Celery is 95% water.  It lives best in a wet and cold environment. While your fridge doesn’t get this cold, celery is best kept at 0º to +1 º C. Ensuring the shelf life of your celery is easy. First, keep it wet and cold at all times.  Next, pull full stalks completely from the root end; don’t cut celery in mid-stalk.  And each time you use your celery, re-trim the root end of the bunch, re-wash, re-wrap, and refrigerate.  Handled correctly, your celery at home can last until you have used it up completely!



The Two-For-One Salad Vegetable

A bunch of radish anyone? Stretching grocery dollars is important to consumers, so have a look at what a bunch of radish can offer above and beyond the obvious economics.

GOOD VALUE: As an abundant two-for-one salad vegetable, bunch radish has 2 parts; both are edible.  That’s a built in, value-add. But helping you strengthen your discretionary food dollars, pales in comparison to its other benefits.

GOOD FOR YOU BUT WHY: Look at nutrition. This salad vegetable is a nutrient rich cultivar which can be consumed raw or cooked.  While it delivers small amounts of 13 different minerals and vitamins, from calcium and copper, through Vitamin B6, Vitamin K and magnesium, on down to niacin, riboflavin and zinc, it is also abundant with antioxidants.

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The weekly race for fresh greens  

Salad season stretches out in front of us and the weekly race is on to select the freshest salad vegetables available. 

For leafy greens, there’s usually an abundance to choose from. Most popular is romaine lettuce, followed by head lettuce, then green-leaf, and then on down to the different chicories like escarole, leafy endive, Belgian Endive and radicchio.

The field of choice is further segmented by production type: field grown, to greenhouse produced, hydroponic, and of course, certified organic.

Romaine lettuce is a favourite for a variety of reasons. 

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10 Ideas to Keep Shoppers happy


  1. Arrange to have a stack of extra shopping baskets in your produce department. 
  2. A brief hello to your shoppers – every day
  3. A sincere smile; this goes along with the hello
  4. Involve your shopper

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Testing 12 seconds to buy


Testing: It doesn’t matter how you display fresh produce if the only thing the customer sees is the display asset itself and not the product. However, customers who see natural material rather than cold steel are more likely to buy the product before they move on. Keep a customer in front of a display for 12 seconds and they’ll commit.

Craige W. Harris is an Inspirational Strategic Consultant who engages others in the wisdom of team dynamics. Where he really stands out is his diverse background in fresh retail. His insights into how to increase profitability is impressive. #FreshTips #FGCraige


Twelve seconds to commit


It doesn’t matter how you display fresh produce if the only thing the customer sees is the display asset itself and not the product. However, customers who see natural material rather than cold steel are more likely to buy the product before they move on.

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Breakfast with a twist - ideas for the produce department

Food trends highlight that consumers are cooking against the clock so what can you do in the fresh produce department to help your shoppers?

Cooking on the Clock

  • Breakfast with a Twist: Loblaw’s trend report stated that Canadians want a breakfast that is portable, high in protein and something that can be prepared the night before.

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What happens when a customer calls your store? 

Updated on 07.10.2018 by Registered CommenterEditor-FreshGuru

I’ve been calling down to Pete’s Frootique in Halifax, Nova Scotia and I was put on hold for a bit of time. What a delight - instead of listening to some sappy elevator music or a radio station that is slightly fuzzy I several fresh produce tidbits from Pete himself - well his voice at least.

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So do you like your apples in a 56 size or will a 113 do? 

As a shopper or as a produce manager, have you ever wondered about the size of apples you purchase at your local grocer? Most likely not but it all has to do with the number of apples that fit into a standard 40lb box.

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Young Canadians lead the charge to a meatless Canada

BCPMA Healthy_Chef 2017 #bcpmaHC17 Vancouver-060 Younger Canadians are going meatless, but Canada still has a love affair with meat, according to a Dalhousie University study. This photo is from the BCPMA Healthy Chef Competition. (Photo/BCPMA) Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University

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Do your store signs help you to sell more produce? 

Signs can be ever so useful - they can educate, enteratain, inform, inspire and confuse. Here are some signst that have made me smile, contemplate, or just shake my head and wonder why?

So what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Is it as simple as this.


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Share your social media icons with Fresh Guru's Grocery Bag

So you buy, sell or promote fruits and veggies in Canada?  If so please let us know so that we can follow you on our news feeds. 



Fresh ideas spotted at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s has caught the imagination of shoppers who like treasure hunts. I wandered through Trader Joe’s and came across half a dozen or so ideas spotted in the fresh produce department and elsewhere. Everything from convenience to informative signs to interesting takes on fresh produce items.

You start with the Fearless Flyer. It’s an information packed newspaper magazine that tickles the fancy of anyone who is close to being a foodie. And while sometimes there is a price discount, often the thrill is reading about an item that is just waiting to be discovered by you.

Passing the floral displays, pushing your red cart, you see the red newspaper box with a black and white illustrated pointing finger alerting you to their Fearless Flyer. Right next to that bright red newspaper box were two feature items: #ENVY apples and Cara Cara oranges. The signage on the displays - none of that boring font stuff but fun, creative signs gave out more info.  Check out the upper right-hand corner of the sign: it’s a page number just in case you want to read a bit more. Common sense? Yes but it works. It triggers that crazy impulse that shoppers, who love food, need and creates that desire to have that special item that has been highlighted.

Convenience is the name of the game for many shoppers. In this case it’s Trader Joe’s private-label rice broccoli. As a shopper the words “nothing but broccoli” caught my attention. Many shoppers, including me, are tired of having hidden ingredients. This gives me a vote of confidence to buy this product. Adding the peekaboo window, shaped like a head of broccoli, allowed me to clearly see what was inside. Riced broccoli? Really? What the heck is that. It just sounds good.

Idea: Next up was trimmed leeks where the packaging was designed to highlight the features of a leek in an inviting way. For shoppers not familiar with leeks, this is one way to bring them on board. Personally I like leek leaves as I make my own version of kale chips with them but these were trimmed tight.  But this isn’t about me, this is about bringing convenience to the shopper.

Idea – word choice: Crinkle cut squash, versatile and fun: it just makes you want to reach out and pick up brightly coloured butternut squash zigzags. The sign looks store made but it is easy to read. For the shopper with children this is a great looking item and makes eating veggies fun. For singles and seniors it’s perfect.  Often a butternut squash can be too large for a single-person household but this is all choppped and ready to go.  You really have to know how to use a knife to cut one of these babies open otherwise you could end up with a nasty cut. Now as long as the packaging can be reused and doesn’t end up in the landfill.

Idea – packaging: Talk about making very boring carrots sound like an exotic French-speaking girlfriend that you taking home to meet your mom. They aren’t selling just carrots here but are selling “Les Petites carrots of many colors”. As a self-proclaimed foodie, what I liked was that they were actually real baby carrots - you can see part of the stem still attached. And OMG look at those colours.

Idea – signage: WHOA! Pick up this opportunity buy while it lasts. The sign info is quick and short. There is a sharp price point, a serving suggestion and nutritional info. I bet you this could almost be a Twitter post. As a shopper I love that they highlighted a good deal and made it be easy for me to grab a bunch or two. Nice.


Other ideas: When you walk through Trader Joe’s there are other things to remind you that you’re in a food store - the oversized fork and spoon hanging on the wall, the ever present kitchen station where a morsel or sip is always (and I mean always) being offered up.  Add self-serve juices or coffee that are complimentary. Throughout the store, signage that entertains and educates. And at checkout, a nice perk to the environmentally conscious shopper who brought in their own grocery bag: a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Trader Joe’s.

With the current dollar exchange rate not being in favour for Canadians, if you shop at Trader Joe’s you pay a premium. In the parking lot every single car, in our row, had Canadian plates on so Trader Joe’s is almost a tourist destination for the foodie.

Would you like to see the Fearless Flyer? If so sent me a note to

Reporting for freshguru on a February 11 2017 Bellingham cross-border shopping trip.


Fresh Summit PMA 2017 New Orleans

Did you know that the fresh produce world actually has their own conventions? This week, October 16, 2017 I’m heading down to New Orleans to see what is happening on the exhibit floor and at the various educational workshops.

The PMA #freshsummit is North America’s largest show that attracts produce buyers, merchandising managers, wholesalers, retailers, various groups and organizations.  And, if you are running a produce department or walking through one as you pick up a few items, you must often wonder where it all comes from. Well the movers and the shakers are there all week. Deals will be cut, new items introduced, campaigns announced - they won’t all be for Canadian grocers but lots will trickle across the border.

Here’s a flashback to the 2013 show.

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Five Tips to get kids interested in fresh produce

Getting  kids out of the cookie and candy aisle and interested in the produce section can be a challenging task.  Getting them to eat fresh produce at home or school may be even harder.  But here are a few tips to help kids look at fresh fruits and veggies as fun and interesting.

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Wave of Peppers at Sobeys

Sobeys continues to make outstanding displays in their fresh produce department. For the shopper,  this wall looks delightful - a rainbow of colour greets you. With greenhouses sprouting like rabbits across Canada and the USA, you know that you can always get a red, green, orange or yellow pepper. 

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Standing up your Zucks!

Increasing impulse purchase is all about getting the consumer to notice your displays. At this Farm Boy in Whitby, Ontario the zucchinis are all standing tall creating a vertical display that draws your eyes up. You can easily see the shape, length and size of these green boys.


Signage: Ripe When Wrinkled

“Ripe when wrinkled” - what a perfect description.

Atlaufo mangoes are also ripe when soft.

I know you don’t have to eat them wrinkled to be good but at least the shopper will have more confidence in the product if they know that it is edible even if it doesn’t look perfect.  

Educating up the consumer is one way of reducing #foodwaste in North America.