So much to be thankful for

So much to be thankful for

In the ominous shadow of a divided country, torn with half the population believing one way and the other half harboring opposite views, amid escalating deaths and heartache, it seems like an unlikely time to think about Thanksgiving.?

That may sound like the current COVID-19 wracked times we’re in. However, this actually describes 1863. That’s when president Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation on Oct. 3rd, inviting all Americans to “Set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving ... ” Proclaimed in what was certainly the most trying time in our nation’s history, in the midst of a terrible civil war.

And ever since, Thanksgiving has been woven into the very fabric of our nation.?

It is a pillar among our holidays. And the only celebration that centers solely around family, friends ... and of course, food.

What can we expect differently as produce marketers plan for this year’s Thanksgiving? It seems that with increased travel restrictions, people will be mostly staying home. This means fewer folks at the holiday dinner. Along with this, there will be fewer peripheral holiday events, such as school or office parties.?

However, I suspect that overall sales will still be strong.?

People enjoy their comfort food, and don’t mind leftovers to see them through subsequent meals as they take in holiday television shows and football games.?
That means all the trimmings (namely lots of fresh produce) can still be counted on in your merchandising plan.

Every ad will shout these items out and deserve prominent, ample displays: Fresh potatoes for mashing, celery and parsley for dressing; cranberries and sweet potatoes are staples too. It will be hard to be long on inventory the week prior to Thanksgiving on relish items: Celery, green onions, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash and more.

Cooking vegetables sales will be strong: Green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower, for a few examples. Salad greens will also peak, so it will take extra labor to keep the wet rack prepped, trimmed, rotated and stocked.

Spillover displays on power fruit items are a must. Items such as fresh apples for pies and Waldorf salad; grapes and new crop navels and grapefruit will certainly please your customers too. Fresh fruit will round out the dessert menu so plan on promoting plenty of strawberries and other berries.

Incidental items may catch you off guard if you’re not prepared. Fresh herb sales, for example, explode during the holidays. Packaged salads, refrigerated dressings and dips will all help fuel added sales.

It helps to review the prior year’s merchandising notes, order aggressively, and schedule enough labor to handle it all.?

And no matter what, there is always something we can be thankful for. ?

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at?[email protected].

More from Armand Lobato:
The art of the produce manager transfer
The produce manager’s priority list
Unveiling retail standards for the produce department