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FORT LEE, Va. - The results are in for the Defense Commissary Agency's Fifth Annual Produce Merchandising Contest, sponsored by DeCA's marketing business unit: Five commissaries out of 255 international entrants have won top honors.
The winners in each category, and their produce managers, are as follows:
--Superstore - McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., Jo-Helena LeMire
--Large Store in the United States - Fort Rucker, Ala., Deborah Mundt
--Overseas Large Store - RAF Lakenheath, England, Rhonda Smith
--Small Store in the United States - Fort Riley, Kan., Robin Vincent
--Overseas Small Store - Marianas Support Activity, Orote Point, Guam, Rose Castro
"We cannot say enough about the importance of this competition. While the benefits of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables are widely known, commissary shoppers should be aware that they also consistently enjoy great prices for our produce. Our produce prices are a key component in maintaining our average customer savings of 30 percent or more when compared to commercial supermarkets," said DeCA c.o.o. Scott Simpson in a statement.
The stores competed during two weeks in June, operating under this year's "Produce - A World of Variety" theme, which spotlighted the wide variety of fruits and vegetables commissaries provide to meet needs of their ethnically diverse customers. According to DeCA produce category manager Carroll Allred, contest participation has grown to an all-time high, from 239 entrants last year, to the benefit of both stores and customers.
Allred noted that demonstrations showing how to pick and prepare some of the less popular fruits and vegetables, as well as some creative displays, helped sales take off, as in the case of the Fort Leavenworth, Kan., commissary, which reported that mangoes sales had gone up 50 percent, pistachios 75 percent, and blueberries a whopping 120 percent.
"When you build exciting displays and offer more variety, and let your customers sample some new fruits and vegetables, it builds sales and ensures repeat business," he said.
Produce managers from the winning stores received as a prize a trip to attend a national produce marketing seminar and convention.
DeCA runs a worldwide chain of almost 275 commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees, and their families at discount prices.