Front Cover
 Title Page
 Center information
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 Research findings
 Conclusions and recommendation...

Group Title: Report - Florida Agricultural Market Research Center ; 76-2
Title: Marketing Florida celery : a wholesale and retail analysis
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00027574/00001
 Material Information
Title: Marketing Florida celery : a wholesale and retail analysis
Series Title: Report - Florida Agricultural Market Research Center ; 76-2
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Mathis, Kary
Publisher: Florida Agricultural Market Research Center, a part of the Food and Resource Economics Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida,
Publication Date: 1976
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00027574
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page i
    Center information
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
    List of Tables
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Research findings
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
    Conclusions and recommendations
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
Full Text
unGtUST 1976


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The objective of this study was to determine whole-
salers and retailers' practices and problems in purchasing
and merchandising celery. Twenty-six retail executives,
30 store produce managers and 17 wholesalers were inter-
viewed in Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit. Florida celery
makes up 80 to 85 percent of study firms' volume January
through May. Florida celery has a substantial transporta-
tion cost advantage over California celery in the three
markets. More retailers preferred the waxed carton for
celery than preferred the wirebound wooden crate, but whole-
salers preferred the crate.

Florida celery compares very favorably with competing
celery in leaf and stalk characteristics and quality of pack.
However, continued improvements and quality control are
essential. Retailers were complimentary of past promotional
activities for Florida celery although opportunity exists
for additional promotion and merchandising effort.

Key words: celery, wholesale-retail celery marketing,
Florida-California celery competitive position, celery
packaging, celery containers, retail merchandising.

This report is circulated without formal review by the
Food and Resource Economics Department. Content is the sole
responsibility of the authors.


A Report by Kary Mathis and Robert L. Degner

a research project conducted for the

August 1976

The Florida Agricultural Market Research Center
a part of
The Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

The Florida Agricultural Market Research Center

A Service of
the Food and Resource Economics Department
of the
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

The purpose of this Center is to provide timely, applied

research on current and emerging marketing problems affecting

Florida's agricultural and marine industries. The Center seeks

to provide research and information to production, marketing,

and processing firms, groups and organizations concerned with

improving and expanding markets for Florida agricultural and

marine products.

The Center is staffed by a basic group of economists trained

in agriculture and marketing. In addition, cooperating personnel

from other IFAS units provide a wide range of expertise which can

be applied as determined by the requirements of individual projects.

This research was supported in part by a grant from
the Florida Celery Exchange.




SUMMARY . . . .


Procedure . . . .
Market Structure and Characteristics.


Sources of Celery . . .

Growing Area and Season .. ...
Supplier Type . . .

Transportation . . .
Containers . . . .
Product Characteristics . .

Color . . . .
Leaf Characteristics . .

Leaf quantity . .
Leaf quality . .

Compactness of Stalks . .
Rib Characteristics . ..
Other Product Characteristics .

Quality of Pack .. . .

Physical Characteristics .
Count and Uniformity . .
Other Pack Considerations .

Celery Purcnases Dy Ketailers ana wnoiesaiers

Ratio of Whole Stalks to Hearts . .

Packaging Preferences by Wholesalers and Retailers. .

Reaction to shorter whole stalk celery . .





S. ii


S. 3

S. 7

S 7

S 7
S. 10

S. 12
S. 13
S. 17

S. 17
S. 21

S. 21
S. 22

S. 27
S. 30
S. 30

S. 31

S. 31
S. 32
S. 33

S. 34


Retail Merchandising Practices. . . . .. 40

In-Store Handling, Preparation and Reworking. . ... 40

Retail packaging of whole stalks. . ... 41
Reworking . . . . . 43

Pricing . . . . . 44
Display Techniques. .... . . . 45
Display Space . . . . .. .. 45
Tie-ins . . . . . .. 46
Promotional Activities. . . . ... 47
Poiht-of-Purchase Material. . . ... 49


Recommendatio s . . . . . .. 56

APPENDIX . . . . .. .. . . 59


Table Page

1 Firms included in study. . . . . 2

2 Retailers included in study; number of firms, number of
stores, share of grocery sales in market area, and total
weekly celery volume . . . . 4

3 Wholesalers included in study: number of firms and
weekly celery volume . . . . 5

4 Retailers and wholesalers included in study: size class
in terms of weekly celery volume, total weekly volume
and percent of each size class . . . 5

5 Retail firms by market area: celery share of produce
sales and average weekly celery volume per store . 6

6 Total weekly volume of celery used, volume purchased
directly from shippers by study firms. . . ... 10

7 Retailers included in study: combined weekly celery
volume and proportion purchased from shippers and whole-
salers .. .. . . . . 11

8 Celery transportation cost per crate and transit time
from Florida and California to study market areas. ... .12

9 Retailer and wholesaler preferences for celery container
types, by market area, firm type, and total weekly volume
by celery stalks handled . . . . 14

10 Study firms' evaluations of Florida and California celery
color . . . . . . 19

11 Study firms' evaluations of Florida and California celery
leaf quantity. . . . .. .. 23

12 Study firms' evaluations of Florida and California celery
leaf quality . . . .... .. 25

13 Study firms' evaluations of Florida and California celery
stalk compactness. . . . .... 28

LIST OF TABLES (Continued)

Table Page

14 Major retailers' proportionate purchases of celery,
whole stalks versus hearts, by market area . .. 35

15 Retailers' purchases of whole-stalk celery by market
area and type of packaging ... . . .. 37

16 Study firms' retail celery packaging preferences, by
market area. . . . . . 42

.17 Type of celery packaging used by retailers as a percent
of total volume, by market area . . .. 43

18 Frequency of celery price specials by major retailers,
all market areas . . ......... 44

19 Celery "tie-ins," products commonly promoted in conjunc-
tion with celery by retailers . . . .. 48

20 Retailers and full-service wholesalers' dimensions prefer-
ence for point-of-purchase materials, all market areas 51


Twenty-six retail produce executives, 30 produce managers, and 17 pro-
duce wholesalers were interviewed in Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit
during May and June 1976.

Retail firms controlled a total of 1,400 supermarkets.

Total weekly celery volume of all firms interviewed was approximately
50,000 crates.

Celery accounted for 2.3 to 2.7 percent of retail produce sales in the
three market areas, but this percentage varied widely among individual

Retail stores sold an average of about 14 crates of celery per week in
all cities, but ranged from less than nine to nearly 35 crates weekly.

Virtually all celery handled by wholesalers was purchased directly from
shippers, compared with 83 percent of retailers' volume from shippers.

Large volume retailers bought 94 percent of their needs from shippers
while small-volume retailers purchased 52 percent from wholesalers.

Florida celery makes up 80 to 85 percent of study firms' celery volume
from January through May, with smaller proportions in both the early
and late months of the Florida season.

Florida has a substantial transportation cost advantage in shipping
celery to the three study markets. Truck rates per crate from Florida
are considerably less than either truck or rail costs from California.
Time enroute from Florida is also much less.

Nine of the 19 retailers, accounting for 57 percent of all retail
celery stalk volume, preferred the waxed carton to the wirebound crate.
Another five, representing 29 percent of stalk volume, were indifferent
between the two containers. The remaining retailers, with 14 percent
of study firms' volume, preferred the crate.

Seven of 13 wholesalers, representing 52 percent of wholesaler volume
of stalks, preferred the wirebound crate. Five wholesalers, with 44 per-
cent of volume, expressed a preference for the carton, while one whole-
saler was indifferent.

Retailers and three full-service wholesalers evaluated the color of
Florida celery and compared it with California celery color. Twelve
of the 22 respondents said Florida celery was greener, but nine said
there was no difference, and one felt California celery had more green

Most of those interviewed had no strong objections to nor preferences
for the color of Florida celery, and stated that Florida celery color
was very good during the 1975-76 season.

A majority of executives interviewed, 13 of 22, stated that Florida
celery generally had more leaves than did celery from California.
However, nine felt there was no difference in the quantity of leaves,
and most had no strong feelings either way about the amount of leaves
on Florida celery.

Nearly all (17 of 22) of the respondents stated there was no difference
between the quality of leaves on Florida celery and those on celery
from California.

Half of the 22 executives responding rated California celery stalks
more compact than Florida celery. Eight felt there was no difference
and three said Florida celery was more compact.

Representatives of 12 firms said California celery had ribs that were
typically thicker, wider and flatter than those on Florida celery.
However, nine said there was no difference in celery ribs between the
two growing areas.

Retailers and wholesalers interviewed generally stated that there was
no difference between Florida and California celery pack quality with
regard to physical damage to stalks on arrival at destination.

Most responding said there was no difference between Florida and Cali-
fornia celery packs with respect to the correct count in the container
or to uniformity of stalk size within a given designation.

Several executives stated that Florida sizes often run smaller than
California sizes for the same count rate. For example, several said
that Florida 2 1/2's were often the same size as California 3's.

Retailers in Philadelphia and Detroit sell 82 percent of their celery
volume as stalks and 18 percent as hearts, but Boston retailers sell
58 percent as stalks and 42 percent as hearts.

Detroit retailers purchased 65 percent of their celery stalks in either
open or closed sleeves and only 35 percent naked. By contrast, retailers
in Boston bought 66 percent naked, while Philadelphia retailers purchased
79 percent naked.

Relatively few of those interviewed were familiar with shorter-cut sleeved
celery, and only one retailer regularly handled it.


Virtually all celery bought naked is sleeved or banded in the retail
store. From 70 to 78 percent of celery stalks that were packaged were
sleeved, with 22 to 30 percent banded.

Celery is featured in retail stores frequently, usually as a "price
special." Thirteen of the nineteen retailers ran price specials on
celery once every two months or more often.

Celery is normally displayed in the salad section in produce departments
of all retail stores visited. Display methods vary considerably among
cities and among firms in the same city.

Tie-ins, products promoted jointly with celery, were used by two-thirds
of the firms contacted. Apples and walnuts for Waldorf salad, cheese
spreads and peanut butter were the most frequent tie-in items.

Some three-fourths of those interviewed were aware of promotional acti-
vities for Florida celery, and stated that Florida was the only celery-
growing area engaging in promotional efforts.

Firms interviewed showed a wide range of types and sizes of point-
of-purchase materials, but the trend is toward smaller materials, not
larger. The most popular dimensions were 7" x 11" and 11" x 14".


Kary Mathis and Robert L. Degner


This is the report of the second phase of a celery marketing

study requested by the Florida Celery Exchange. This phase concen-

trated on the wholesale and retail segment of the celery marketing


The first phase of the study (AMRC IR 76-1, April 1976) was con-

cerned with Florida grower and shipper reactions to different stalk

lengths and packaging methods. The second phase, reported here, had

the objective of determining wholesalers and retailers' practices

and problems in purchasing and merchandising celery, particularly as

affected by stalk lengths and packaging. The study sought to identify

innovations and improvements in celery marketing that would benefit

growers and shippers, wholesalers and retailers, and consumers.


Structured interviews were conducted with executives responsible

for purchasing and merchandising produce in major wholesale and retail

firms in Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit. The firms contacted are

listed in Table 1, and the questionnaire used is in the Appendix.

KARY MATHIS is associate professor and ROBERT L. DEGNER is assis-
tant professor of food and resource economics, University of Florida.

During the period of May 16-27, 1976, interviews were completed in

Philadelphia and Boston, and interviews in Detroit were completed

June 6-9. In the three cities, a total of 26 persons in 17 retail

chains were interviewed, along with 17 people from 14 wholesale

firms. In addition, 30 individual retail stores were visited, 10

in each city, and produce managers were interviewed in each store.

It will be noted in Table 1 that one of the large national chains

was contacted in more than one city. These were region or division

offices responsible for stores in the particular market area. In

several cases, the corporate offices of other chains were included

in the interviews.

Table 1.--Firms included in study

Classifi- Philadelphia Boston Detroit

Retailers A&P A&P A&P
Acme Angelo's Allied
Food Fair Brockton-Public Chatham's
Genaurdi's Fernandes Farmer Jack's
Penn Fruit First National Stores Kroger
Shopping Cart Purity-Supreme
Star Markets
Stop & Shop
Wholesalers H. R. Hindle Co. Boston Celery Harry Becker
MC Produce Community-Suffolk Company
Norristown Wholesale Peter Condakes Co. A. Harris Co.
Dan Storey, Inc. Lampros. Bros. MacClaren Co.
Zuritsky & Co. Abner Wolf

Market Structure and Characteristics

Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit were selected as study cities

because they are important markets for Florida celery and a relatively

small number of wholesale and retail firms accounts for a large share

of produce sales in each city. In each city, the leading retailers,

in terms of number of stores, share of total grocery sales in the mar-

ket area, and volume of celery handled were identified and executives

in those firms interviewed. The six retail firms interviewed in

Philadelphia had a total of 387 supermarkets and accounted for about

59 percent of the grocery store sales in the trade area. The eight

Boston retail firms were comprised of 507 supermarkets with approxi-

mately 53 percent of the market, and the five Detroit retailers had

513 stores and 71 percent of grocery store sales (Table 2). Whole-

salers handling the majority of celery volume through wholesale channels

were also identified and personnel of those firms interviewed.

All firm representatives were asked celery volume handled in an

average week. Nineteen retailers, with more than 1,400 stores in the

three market areas, handled about 19,300 crates of celery per week

(Table 2). The 14 wholesalers reportedly handled 34,100 crates weekly,

so that the 33 firms contacted in the study reported weekly celery vol-

ume of about 53,400 crates (Table 3). There was some double counting

due to retailers obtaining celery from the wholesalers, but when the

double counting was eliminated, the firms interviewed for the study

accounted for nearly 50,000 crates of celery per week.

Firms included in the study exhibited considerable variation in

the weekly volume of celery handled. The 19 retailers were about

equally divided among "small, medium, and large" classes in terms of

weekly volume (Table 4). The seven retail firms with weekly sales

over 1,250 crates accounted for 61 percent of the volume reported by

all retailers contacted. By contrast, the "large" wholesalers

accounted for 95 percent of volume by all 14 wholesale firms.

Individual firms in a particular market area showed considerable

differences in the share of total produce sales accounted for by

celery, and in average weekly celery volume per store. However,

weighted averages of the celery share of produce sales and weekly

store celery volume showed essentially no differences between market

areas (Table 5).

Based on the preceding information on market structure and charac-

teristics, it is probable that the firms interviewed accounted for a

major share of celery in important market areas. The larger firms,

who bought nearly all their celery directly from shippers, accounted

for the largest share of celery sales, and average weekly volume per

retail store differed little between market areas.

Table 2.--Retailers included in study: number of firms, number of stores,
share of grocery sales in market area, and total weekly
celery volume

Market Area Firms Stores Share of Grocery Total Weekly
Sales in Market Area Celery Volume
No. No. Percent Crates

Philadelphia 6 387 59 5,100

Boston 8 507 53 6,900

Detroit 5 513 71 7,300

Total 19 1,407 -- 19,300

Table 3.--Wholesalers included in study:
celery volume

number of firms and weekly

Market Area Firms Total Weekly
Celery Volume

No. Crates

Philadelphia 5 14,000

Boston 4 13,500

Detroit 5 6,600

Total 14 34,100

Table 4.--Retailers and wholesalers included in study: size class in
terms of weekly celery volume, total weekly volume and per-
cent of each size class

Size Class Retailers Wholesalers
Number Weekly Volume Number Weekly Volume

Crates Percent Crates Percent

(Under 500 cr./wk.) 6 1,550 8 2 550 2

(500-1,250 cr./wk.) 6 6,050 31 2 1,000 3

(Over 1,250 cr./wk,) 7 11,700 61 10 32,550 95

Total 19 19,300 100 14 34,100 100

Table 5.--Retail firms by market area: celery
and average weekly celery volume per

share of produce sales

Area and Firma Celery Share of Produce Average Weekly Celery
Sales Volume Per Store




Weighted Average


Weighted Average


Weighted Average



aFirms not listed

in order shown in Table 1, nor identified, to avoid

bFigures were not available.





-- --


Findings from executive interviews with members of retail and

wholesale firms are presented under six separate headings. These

headings are as follows: sources of celery purchased, by season,

from different growing areas and supplier types; transportation

factors affecting celery marketing; container preferences and evalu-

ations; characteristics of celery and quality of pack from different

growing areas; packaging methods and preferences; and retailing and

merchandising practices employed.

Sources of Celery

Growing Area and Season

Florida celery dominates the celery market in each of the three
market areas during most of the Florida season. Both wholesale and

retail personnel stated that they switch to Florida celery in the fall

or winter when they consider quality satisfactory. The Florida share

of total celery purchased by all firms included in the study increases

from about 14 percent in November to 41 percent in December. After

January 1, even more firms shift a larger proportion of purchases to

Florida celery and hold that volume through May (Figure 1). Of the

total weekly celery volume purchased directly from shippers (about

Figure 1.--Average weekly celery volume in three study cities, by
month during Florida celery season: Florida share, by
city, and supply from other growing areas, all cities

Other area supply to all 3 cities

Florida supply to Boston

Florida supply to Philadelphia

g Florida supply to Detroit
Total Weekly Celery Volume, 3Cities


40- X
a30- m
40 -

z. mt



Florida Celery Season

50,000 crates; see Table 6), from 80 to 85 percent comes from Florida

during the January-May period. The Florida share drops sharply in

June as the Florida season comes to an end.

California supplies most celery to study markets during the July-

to-November period when Florida is out of production. Some Michigan

celery is used during the late summer and early fall, particularly in

the Detroit market, as would be expected. Some firms also use New

York and Ohio celery during Florida's off-season, but the quantities

are minimal.

A key point stated by practically all retailers is that retail

firms continue using Florida celery once they change over. Retailers

plan their produce advertisements and special features two to three

weeks in advance and prefer to remain with produce from one growing

area if possible. Of course, unfavorable weather or other factors that

lower quality or reduce supplies cause retailers to purchase celery

elsewhere. The study found that retailers begin purchasing Florida

celery when they consider quality to be acceptable. This is based

heavily on buyers' past experiences with celery from Florida and other

growing areas. The general practice is to change Florida celery "about

the same time as last year" or "about when we always do." These pro-

curement practices, guided by habit or tradition, may be somewhat

difficult to modify. However, the effort might be worthwhile. For

example, Boston firms reported that they usually do not begin buying

Florida celery until December (Figure 1). If product quality early in

November should be particularly good, an effort to attract Boston

purchases might be profitable for the Florida celery industry. More

details on interview responses on quality factors will be presented

in later sections of the report.

Supplier Type

All larger retailers bought three-fourths or more of their celery

needs directly from shippers in growing areas. Only one wholesaler of

the 14 interviewed did not buy from shippers. Thus, some 83 percent

of retailers' celery volume and 93 percent of total celery volume in

all three market areas togetherwere purchased directly (Table 6).

Table 6.--Total weekly volume of
directly from shippers

celery used, and volume purchased
by study firms

Retailers Wholesalers Total
Market Area
Total Used Direct Total Used Direct Total Used Direct

Crates Percent Crates Percent Crates Percent

Philadelphia 5,100 90 14,000 100 19,100 97

Boston 6,900 65 13,500 96 20,400 86

Detroit 7,300 94 6,600 100 13,900 97

Total 19,300 85 34,100 99 53,400 93

The one wholesaler who did not purchase celery directly from ship-

pers bought his supplies from one of the larger wholesalers in his mar-

ket area. Retailers who used more than one truckload of celery weekly

bought most of their needs from shippers. These retailers also had

sufficient storage space to keep their fresh produce needs on hand in

their own facilities.

Even larger retailers purchased some celery from wholesale firms,

usually those on terminal markets. Proportions ranged from small

amounts or "fill-ins" to as much as 85 percent bought from wholesalers

by one retail firm. Retailers that normally buy full loads directly

from shippers obtain partial loads from wholesalers or from shippers

with capabilities of providing mixed loads.

As expected, retailers handling smaller volumes of celery bought

most of their supplies from wholesalers or repackers. Over half of

the celery volume handled by firms classed as "small" came from whole-

salers compared with six percent bought by "large" retailers (Table 7).

One exception to the general findings noted just above is in cel-

ery heart volume in the Boston area. Hearts make up a higher propor-

tion of retail celery sales in Boston than in the other two market

areas, as discussed later. Several repacker-wholesalers in the Boston

area provide most of the celery hearts for retailers there.

Table 7.--Retailers included in study: combined weekly celery volume
and proportion purchased from shippers and wholesalers

Combined Supplier Type
Size Class
Weekly Volume Shipper Wholesaler

Crates ---------Percent----------
(Under 500 cr./wk.) 1,550 48 52

(500-1,250 cr./wk.) 6,050 71 29

(Over 1,250 cr./wk.) 11,700 94 6

Total 19,300 83 17


Florida has had a substantial transportation cost advantage

over California in the three market areas studied in recent years.

Rail rate increases in 1976 have put California celery shippers at

an even greater disadvantage, since more celery moves by rail than

by truck from California to the major Eastern markets. Florida cel-

ery now has a delivered-cost advantage which ranges from $0.60-$1.00

per crate in Detroit to $1.75 in Boston (Table 8).

Table 8.--Celery transportation cost per crate and transit time from
Florida and California to study market areas

Transit Time From:
Market Area Cost per Crate Florida California
Florida California
Flori da California Truck Truck Rail

-------dollars-------- ----------days-----------

Philadelphia 1.35-1.65 3.00-3.25 1-2 4-5 7-8

Boston 1.75-2.25 3.50-4.00 2-3 4-5 8-14

Detroit 1.40-2.30 2.00-3.30 2-3 4-5 8-12

Not only lower transportation cost but less transit time makes

Florida celery more attractive, relative to the California product.

Buyers stated that less time enroute resulted in Florida celery being

fresher, with a longer shelf-life. Other important factors stated by

retailers were that truck service was more dependable and that less

labor time is needed to unload trucks than rail cars. Moreover, the

shorter transit time from Florida gave retail merchandisers more

flexibility in planning and adjusting their celery purchases. Several

mentioned that the relatively rapid availability of Florida celery

allowed them to order additional supplies when needed. A few respon-

dents stated that rail cars gave them some flexibility since they

could keep the cars for a longer period than trucks, and thus provide

additional storage space. However, this was a minor point and did

not offset the time and cost disadvantages of rail shipment.


Respondents were asked to summarize their experiences and pre-

ferences for the main types of shipping containers now in use for

celery stalks, the wooden wirebound crate and the waxed carton. Only

a very few retailers had received styrofoam or plastic containers, so

no detailed comparisons are possible for these containers.

Both wholesale and retail personnel were asked to compare the

wirebound crate with the waxed carton as to effects on celery quality,

arrival condition, and handling characteristics. Additionally,

retailers were asked to compare disposal costs and problems for the

two containers. All personnel were asked to evaluate and compare

each type of Florida container with the same type from California.

Finally, respondents were asked for preferences and comments on the

size and weight of containers now used for Florida celery stalks.

Overall, more firms accounting for a larger volume of stalks,

preferred cartons to crates in the three study areas (Table 9).

Nearly half the retailers contacted, representing over half the volume,

preferred the waxed carton. Five retail firms preferred crates and

five were indifferent to container type. Smaller firms leaned to the

crate, as shown in the volume share in Table 9.

Table 9.--Retailer and wholesaler preferences for celery container types, by
and total weekly volume of celery stalks handled

market area, firm type,

Market Area and Prefer Crate Prefer Carton Indifferent Total
Firm Type Weekly Firms Weekly Firms Weekly Firms Weekly
rms Volume Volume Volume Volume

No. Crates No. Crates No. Crates No. Crates


Retailers 1 150 3 2,600 2 1,325 6 4,075
Wholesalers 4 12,750 0 0 1 1,350 5 14,100


Retailers 4 1,970 3 1,890 1 170 8 4,030
Wholesalers 0 0 3 10,460 0 0 3 10,460


Retailers 0 0 3 3,940 2 2,860 5 6,800
Wholesalers 3 3,350 2 3,280 0 0 5 6,630

Total 12 18,220 14 22,170 6 5,705 32 46,095

Retailers 5 2,120 9 8,430 5 4,355 19 14,905
Wholesalers 7 16,100 5 13,740 1 1,350 13 31,190

a0ne firm did not respond to the question on container preference.

More wholesalers expressed a preference for the crate over the

carton, and only one was indifferent, stating that he supplied his

retailer customers what they requested. Wholesaler preferences

differed considerably among market areas however. Four of five

Philadelphia wholesalers preferred the crate, but all three Boston

wholesalers who responded preferred the carton (Table 9). Wholesale

firms in the Detroit area were about equally divided in preference

between crates and cartons.

Those who preferred cartons did so mainly because they believe

there is less damage to the celery from bruising, or the ends rubbing,

compared with the wirebound crate. Retailers also said the carton

was easier to handle, that sleeved celery arrives in better condition,

and that disposal is easier and less costly than with crates. Con-

tainer disposal is a growing problem for retailers, especially those

in the Boston area. One major Boston firm cited disposal costs of up

to one dollar each for wirebound crates. Cartons are considerably

easier and cheaper to dispose of, since they can be flattened and

baled more readily.

Those preferring the wirebound crate did so because they felt

celery could be cooled better and kept fresh longer. Many respondents

from both wholesale and retail firms feel that the product heats up

more in the waxed carton. This comment was most frequent from whole-

salers, several of whom also stated that crates from California

shippers were sturdier and more desirable than those from Florida.

However, one wholesaler felt that crates from Florida were more uni-

form than those from California.

In connection with the problem of heating in waxed cartons,

a number of respondents noted that precooling of Florida celery did

not seem as thorough nor uniform as from California. Even some

who preferred crates stated that improved precooling of Florida

celery in waxed cartons would remove their primary objection to

the carton.

Other criticisms of cartons were that they crushed more and had

more shipping damage than crates, However, one Detroit retailer

stated that crates were mishandled more than cartons, resulting in

more product damage as well as some damage to the crate, Also, one

Philadelphia retailer felt that cartons from Florida shippers crushed

somewhat more than those from California.

When asked if the size and weight of Florida celery stalk con-

tainers were satisfactory, more than half of those interviewed said

size and weight of cartons and crates were satisfactory. Several

observations concerning container weight are interesting. Four of

those interviewed--one large and two medium-volume retailers and one

large, full-service wholesaler--suggested that 40 to 45 pounds was

about as heavy as containers should be in the future. Union restric-

tions on lifting and a growing number of young people and women in

retail produce departments were the reasons given for suggesting

lighter-weight containers. One retailer and one wholesaler, not

included in the four mentioned above, also stated that containers for

celery stalks shorter than the standard 14-15 inches would be lighter

and more desirable. Interestingly enough, one wholesaler suggested

a larger container, so more product could be shipped.

As stated earlier, very few of those interviewed had received

the styrofoam container, so no firm conclusions can yet be drawn

comparing it with the crate or carton. One retailer in Philadelphia

and two each in Boston and Detroit had received celery in the styro-

foam carton. Their observations were that product arrival condition

was excellent and superior to any other container. However, several

complained that the empty styrofoam carton was bulky, took up more

room in the retail store, and was more trouble to dispose of. One

retailer also stated that it is more difficult to stack and handle.

All were concerned that the cost of that container might also be

higher than crates or waxed cartons.

Product Characteristics

A large portion of the executive interviews in the wholesale-

retail phase of the celery marketing study was concerned with trade atti-

tudes and opinions toward the particular characteristics of Florida celery.

Those interviewed were asked for their evaluation of color, leaves, com-

pactness, rib size, and quality of pack of Florida celery, and then asked

to compare the Florida product with California celery on each of those

points. Evaluations and comments from 19 retailers and three full-service

wholesalers, who provide storage, merchandising and other services to

smaller retailers, are discussed in this section.


The color of Florida celery and its comparison with the California

product generated considerable response from retail personnel. Of the

22 responding, 12 stated that Florida celery generally is more green in

color than is California celery. However, nine felt that there was no

difference in color between the Florida and California products, and

one felt California was generally greener (Table 10). More retailers

in the Philadelphia area stated that Florida celery was greener than

did retailers in the other markets.

The general attitude of respondents toward the color of Florida

celery was determined and classified as "positive," "neutral," or

"negative." A "positive" response means that the person interviewed

thought favorably of Florida celery color and preferred it to the color

of celery from other areas. A "neutral" evaluation means that the

respondent had no strong feelings concerning Florida celery color, while
"negative" means the person was somewhat unfavorably inclined toward

Florida color. It should be noted that no respondent was strongly

concerned, either positively or negatively, over the color of Florida

celery. Also, a number stated that Florida celery is greener than that

from California but were positive or neutral toward the Florida color

(Table 10).

A clear majority, 14 of the 22 firms, were neutral toward Florida

celery color and another three were positive. Of the 14 neutral responses,

four were from firms classified as large celery volume (Table 7), five

were in the medium category, and five were small-volume firms. The

negative responses came from three large firms, one medium and one small.

There was one positive response in each size class.

Most of those interviewed made comments about the color of Florida

celery or compared its color with California celery. These comments,

shown in Table 10, reveal that Florida celery is well regarded

Table 10.--Study firms' evaluations of Florida and California celery color

Description of Color
Market Area and Description of ColorAttitude
Firm Size Class Florida Calif. No Toward Comments
Greener Greener Difference Fla. Color


Large X Negative
Large X Neutral Florida early season celery darker.
Large X Positive Lighter color indicates deteriora-
Large X Neutral
Small X Neutral "Mellow" green: good; "poison"
green: bitter.
Small X Negative Prefer lighter green.
Small X Neutral California more bleached.


Large X Negative Florida usually too green.
Medium X Neutral Florida greener, especially early
and late season.
Medium X Negative Sometimes undesirable.
Medium X Neutral Color good this year.
Medium X Neutral Color is not a factor if taste is
not affected.
Medium X Neutral ---
Small X Neutral Well-bleached this year.
Small X Neutral ---
Small X Neutral Florida greener in past.
_____________________________________________________________________ o

Continued on the following page.

Table 10.--Study firms' evaluations of Florida and California celery colora(Continued)

Description of Color
Market Area and Attitude
Firm Size Class Florida Calif. No Toward Comments
Greener Greener Difference Fla. Color


Large X Neutral Customers prefer green celery; do
not like bleached.
Large X Negative Florida usually too green.
Large X Neutral ---
Medium X Neutral ---
Medium X Positive Greener celery looks healthy, but
unsure of consumer reaction.
Small X Positive Prefer greener celery.

TOTALS 12 1 9 Positive 3
Neutral 14
Negative 5

Respondents include three full-service wholesalers with considerable retail contact.

in the wholesale and retail trade. Florida celery is normally

greener than California celery, particularly early in the season,

The respondents felt that consumers equate a very strong or

"poison" green color with bitter taste, and thus will not buy

celery that is "too green."

However, Florida's greener color was seen as desirable by

three respondents in the Detroit area, who also stated that con-

sumers in that market seemed to prefer celery with more color.

Retailers in the other two market areas stated that the color of

Florida's celery was very good during the 1975-76 season. One

Philadelphia respondent said that consumers viewed lighter color as

indicating deterioration in quality and preferred greener celery.

Leaf Characteristics

Since celery leaves are felt by many in the produce trade to

be important for consumer "eye appeal" and are, at the same time,

a major problem for the grower, retailers were asked to compare

Florida and California stalks with respect to amount and quality

of leaves. As with the evaluation of celery color, responses include

all retailers plus three full-service wholesalers. Respondents'

attitudes toward the quantity of leaves on Florida celery are classed

as positive, negative or neutral, and comments are reported (Table 11),

Leaf quantity

A majority of those interviewed, 13 of 22, stated that Florida

celery generally had more leaves than did celery from California.

However, nine felt there was no difference in the quantity of leaves

Table 11.--Study firms' evaluation of Florida and California celery leaf quantity

Description of Leaf Quantity Attitude
Market Area and Florida Calif. No Toward Florida Comments
Firm Size Class More More Difference Leaf Quantity


Quantity of leaves sometimes
not serious problem.
Consumer value is in stalk.
Housewives prefer leaves.





Continued on the following page.





Leaves make celery attractive, but
poor handling causes problems.
Prefer fewer leaves, more stalk.

Leaves breakdown first; more leaves
mean less stalk, although leaves can
make product appealing.
Prefer more shank, fewer leaves.

This year Florida celery was excellent,
but in past, had more leaves; prefer
more shank.







Table 11.--Study firms' evaluation of Florida and California celery leaf quantity (Continued)

Description of Leaf Quantity Attitude
Market Area and
Firm Size Class Florida Calif. No Toward Florida Comments
More More Difference Leaf Quantity







Florida celery has a few more leaves
but usually not significant.
Leaves desirable for appeal; Calif.
celery often too long, has no
leaves when cut.
Florida has come a long way in the
past two-three years.

aRespondents include three full-service wholesalers

with considerable retail contact,







on celery from the two growing areas. Furthermore, 12 respondents

had no strong feelings either way about Florida leaf quantity, as

shown by the neutral responses in Table 11. While eight of those

interviewed were negative toward the amount of leaves, two were

quite positive, as reflected in their comments.

Other comments from respondents expressing a neutral attitude

toward Florida celery leaf quantity show that many retailers believe

that having leaves on celery is important to consumers for appearance

and appeal. Moreover, some retail store produce managers in Phila-

delphia and Boston stated that some of .their customers used the

leaves for cooking. These were from stores located in older neighbor-

hoods, with a high proportion of certain ethnic groups. Store produce

managers in shopping centers in newer residential areas generally

stated that most shoppers there were younger and were less interested
in having leaves on celery. These same consumers were judged by

retailers to be more likely to accept celery stalks shorter than 14

inches if such lengths were offered. In this regard, one Detroit

retailer stated that California celery was often so long that no leaves

were left when the product was trimmed to desired length for retail

sale. Retailer reaction to celery length is also discussed in the

section on packaging.

Leaf quality

Nearly all (17 of 22) of the retailers and wholesalers responding

to questions concerning leaf characteristics stated there was no

difference between the quality of leaves on Florida celery and those

on celery from California (Table 12). In addition, two respondents

stated that Florida leaf quality was higher.

Table 12.--Study firms' evaluation of Florida and California celery leaf quality

Leaf Quality
Market Area and
Firm Size Class Florida Calif. No Comments
Better Better Difference


Large X Transit time from California results in
some leaf breakdown.
Large X Leaf quality from Florida and Calif. varies.
Large X ---
Large X ---
Small X ---
Small X Calif. has fewer leaves, thus fewer bad ones.
Small X---


Large X ---
Medium X ---
Medium X ---
Medium X Calif. celery has stronger leaf.
Medium X ---
Medium X ---
Small X ---
Small X ---
Small X ---

Continued on the following page.

Table 12.--Study firms' evaluation of Florida and California celery leaf qualitya (Continued)

Market Area and Leaf Quality C en
Firm Size Class Florida Calif. No
Better Better Difference


Large X California celery has better leaves.
Large X --
Large X ---
Medium X Florida celery has better leaves.
Medium X ---
Small X ---

TOTALS 2 3 17

aRespondents include three full-service wholesalers with considerable retail contact.

Each of those three also made comments, as noted in Table 12.

One said California celery had better leaves and another that the

leaves were "stronger." The third stated that less leaves on Cali-

fornia celery resulted in fewer problems. On the other hand, one

respondent, who rated Florida celery leaves better, felt that the

longer transit time from California resulted in more leaf breakdown.

Another interviewee noted that leaf quality from both growing areas

varied with conditions in each area.

Compactness of Stalks

Exactly half of the group of 22 responding firms rated California

celery more compact than Florida celery stalks (Table 13). However,

eight felt there was no difference in compactness and three stated

that Florida celery was more compact. All three of those were firms

in the Boston area. This is significant because Boston retailers and

wholesalers were more particular about overall produce quality and

somewhat more selective in their purchases than were firms in the

other market areas. This selectivity reflects the nature of consumers

in the Boston area, who are generally more particular in their produce

purchases, according to retailers there.

Only one of the 11 respondents stating California celery was more

compact had a specific comment. Others, however, did criticize Florida

celery for being "wild" at certain times, especially early in the sea-

son. A few mentioned that Florida celery had somewhat less heart for-

mation than did the California stalk.

Table 13.--Study firms' evaluation of Florida and California celery stalk compactness"

Stalk Compactness
Market Area and Florida Calif. Comments
Firm Size Class
Compact Compact DifferNo
Compact Compact Difference


California tighter, heavier.
Florida has less heart formation.

Occasionally wild early in season.

Calif. celery stalks more open.

Florida usually less compact than California
but equal this year.

Continued on the following page.





Table 13.--Study firms' evaluation of Florida and California celery stalk compactnessa (Continued)

Stalk Compactness
Market Area and Florida Calif. Comments
Firm Size Class More More No
Compact Compact Difference


Large X ---
Large X ---
Large X ---
Medium X ---
Medium X ---
Small X ---

TOTALS 3 11 8

aRespondents include three full-service wholesalers with considerable retail contact.

Rib Characteristics

Firms' evaluation of rib thickness, curvature and width were

similar among the three market areas. Representatives of 12 of the

firms in the study said that California celery had ribs that were

typically thicker, wider and flatter than those from Florida celery.

Most felt that the housewife preferred the thick, wide,flat ribs,

but one respondent indicated California celery required more trim-

ming in the store and another said the difference in rib character-

istics was inconsequential.

An encouraging aspect of responses on this set of traits is

that representatives of nine firms saw no significant differences

in rib characteristics between the two growing areas in recent years.

Several were quick to point out, however, that Florida celery had been

"thinner" and "tough and wiry" until the past few seasons. Occasional

shipments of celery with some of these traits help to keep the "wild

and wiry" stereotype alive with a few terminal market wholesalers.

According to respondents, these shipments are not frequent, and gen-

erally occur early or late in the season.

Other Product Characteristics

Retailers, particularly in Boston, were critical of Florida

celery's stringiness and taste. Four of the eight retailers in

Boston mentioned stringiness as one of their most significant criti-

cisms, and two in Boston mentioned taste as well. A typical comment

was "California celery eats better." Several of those interviewed

allowed that there may have been some improvement in Florida celery,

but others were unconvinced. A small Detroit wholesaler felt that

35 to 40 percent of the small retail stores that normally buy on the

terminal do not buy Florida celery because of taste. However, most

major retailers felt that the average consumer could not differentiate

between Florida and California celery.

Quality of Pack

The quality of pack is of considerable importance. Evaluations

of physical damage to stalks, cleanliness, accurate count, product

uniformity and sizing were obtained from 19 retailers and two full-

service wholesalers.

Physical Characteristics

Everyone interviewed was asked to compare Florida celery to that

received from other growing areas, particularly California, with

respect to the selected pack characteristics. The physical character-

istics compared were the number of loose ribs, rib damage, i.e., cuts

and bruises, uniform rib length, insect damage, cleanliness, and overall

arrival condition due to handling. The overwhelming consensus was that

there are no significant differences in product damage or cleanliness

between celery packed in Florida and that packed in other growing areas.

Few complaints were made about the quantity of loose ribs. One

major retailer in Boston felt that both Florida and California celery

were sometimes cut too high, which resulted in too many loose ribs.

Another medium-sized firm in Boston thought that Florida celery typi-

cally had a greater incidence of loose ribs than did California, but

overall, Florida celery compared favorably.

Rib damage due to rough handling does not appear to be a factor

either. One medium-sized firm in Boston said that Florida celery

usually had more cut and bruised ribs, but a large firm in Philadelphia

felt that Florida had less damage than other areas. All others indi-

cated that there were no appreciable differences among growing areas

and no particular problems with rib damage.

Uneven rib length due to trimming tops at an angle does not seem

to be a problem. There were no major criticisms of the uniformity

of rib length. One executive in Philadelphia said that his firm had

encountered problems with unevenly trimmed Florida celery, but another

in Philadelphia said he had more problems with California celery. The

other firms had no complaints.

Insect damage is extremely rare according to those interviewed.

Although it does infrequently result in problems, all celery-growing

areas are affected, and there are no particular insect problems associ-

ated with Florida celery.

Cleanliness and overall arrival condition were found to be similar

and satisfactory for celery from Florida and California. Several firms

reported occasional problems from both areas, but none viewed either

factor as serious or persistent.

Count and Uniformity

All those interviewed were asked if there were celery ship-
ments where containers had an incorrect number of stalks, and if

there was any appreciable difference in these occurrences between

Florida and California shipments. This was naturally of most

concern to the retailers interviewed. Two of the full-service

wholesalers previously mentioned also commented on this point.

All 21 responding said there was generally no significant pro-

portion of celery containers from either growing area that was short

in count. One retail firm representative said there were "occasional

problems" from both California and Florida, and a wholesaler noted

that containers of smaller sizes--3's and smaller--from both areas

were sometimes short in count. Overall, though, instances of short

count were infrequent and of little concern to wholesalers and


Uniformity of pack, the degree of variation of stalk size within

a container labeled with a given size designation, was evaluated by

the 21 firm representatives noted above. Sixteen stated there was

no appreciable difference between Florida and California pack in this

regard, while five said California packs were somewhat more uniform.

A few respondents commented that variability of stalk sizes within a

container was most noticeable in Florida shipments when total celery

supplies were tight.

Other Pack Considerations

One of the most frequent criticisms of Florida's celery pack

was that sizes tend to run smaller than California sizes for the

same count crate. Two larger wholesalers, one in Philadelphia and

one in Boston, made this criticism, as did four large retailers in

Philadelphia and one in Boston. They stated that there was about

one "size" difference between Florida and California celery. For

example, several said that California 3's were as large as Florida

2 1/2's. This does not appear to be a major detriment to Florida's

competitive situation, but it is a slight "confusion factor" that

probably does not help the Florida industry. Standardized sizes

would tend to facilitate direct price comparisons where Florida has

a decided advantage due to transportation differentials.

Celery Purchases by Retailers and Wholesalers

This section examines retailers and wholesalers' celery purchases

with respect to product type, i.e., whole stalks versus hearts, and

with respect to type of packaging for whole stalks.

Ratio of Whole Stalks to Hearts

On the average, retailers in Philadelphia and Detroit purchase

and subsequently sell 82 percent of their celery volume as whole stalks

and the remaining 18 percent as hearts (Table 14). Most of the larger

firms in these two cities estimated their whole-stalk volume to be 75

to 80 percent of the total and the remaining 20 to 25 percent hearts.

However, smaller firms reported no heart sales or else a very small

proportion sold as hearts.

Boston retailers were found to buy and sell substantially more

hearts. On the average, 58 percent of the Boston retailers' celery

volume was whole stalks and 42 percent hearts (Table 14). Retailers'

sales in Boston ranged from 30 percent to 56 percent. Smaller Boston

firms tended to report proportionately greater heart sales in con-

trast to small firms in Philadelphia and Detroit.

Table 14.--Major retailers' proportionate purchases of celery, whole
stalks versus hearts, by market area

Market Area Whole Stalks Hearts Totals


Philadelphia 82 18 100

Boston 58 42 100

Detroit 82 18 100

percentages are based on an overall, weighted average volume reported
by all firms within cities.

Small wholesalers in all three cities were found to purchase

whole-stalk celery almost exclusively, but larger wholesalers and

full-service wholesalers handled from one to 15 percent hearts.

Celery hearts were found to constitute a substantial volume

at the retail level, particularly in Boston. Accurate data were

not available as to the proportion of hearts supplied by repackers

in each of the market areas, but the quantity is quite large. Repackers

were apparently using Florida whole-stalk celery to make hearts. Most

hearts prepared by repackers were found to be about 10 inches long and

packaged in a cardboard tray inside a poly bag or simply in poly bags.

California hearts that were seen in the markets were substantially

shorter, usually about 8 1/2 inches long. Several firms complained

that Florida hearts did not hold up as well because of excessive leaves.

They suggested that shortening them to the California length would alle-

viate the problem.

The cardboard tray-poly bag package is used extensively by repackers

for hearts in Boston. Adopting this type of package appears to be one

way of capturing a larger proportion of the heart market in Boston and

possibly other markets as well. The transportation savings alone

could give Florida shippers a decided cost advantage.

Packaging Preferences by Wholesalers and Retailers

Wholesalers and retailers were asked how they usually bought

whole-stalk celery, i.e., what proportions were bought naked (plain)

or pre-sleeved, either open or closed. Open sleeves are generally

used for the standard 14- to 14 1/2-inch stalks from Florida or

California. Closed sleeves are used primarily for the shorter 11-to

11 1/2-inch stalks, also packed by both major celery growing areas.

Wholesalers and retailers were also asked the reasons for their pre-

ferences for naked or sleeved stalks. The wholesalers interviewed

expressed a unanimous preference for naked celery, citing cost as

the major reason. They indicated that their customers were unwilling

to pay the sleeping upcharge. Responses from full-service wholesalers

were included with those of retailers because of their considerable

retail contact.

All retailers in Philadelphia reported that they regularly

purchased some naked celery. Among larger firms, the proportion of

naked celery bought ranged from 20 to 100 percent; on an overall

volume basis, for all retailers interviewed, 79 percent of the whole

stalk celery was bought naked and the remaining 21 percent bought as

open pre-sleeved (Table 15). None regularly bought short, closed

pre-sleeved celery.

Several large-volume retailers in Boston buy a very high pro-

portion of their whole-stalk celery pre-sleeved (open, standard

length). However, virtually all of the medium and small-volume firms

buy naked celery exclusively. Yet, on an overall volume basis for

the retail firms included in the study, approximately two-thirds was

bought naked and one-third in open sleeves (Table 15).

Table 15.--Retailers' purchases of whole-stalk celery by market area
and type of packaging

Type of Packaging
Market Area Naked Open Closed All Totals
Sleeve Sleeve Sleeved
Philadelphia 79 21 0 21 100

Boston 66 34 0 34 100

Detroit 35 XXXa XXXa 65 100

percentages are not reported in order to prevent disclosure of
confidential information.

A marked dichotomy in preferences for packaging was found in

Detroit. Some major firms buy pre-sleeved celery exclusively, but

others buy naked exclusively. One large-volume and one medium-volume

firm buy only standard length, open-sleeved celery, and one large-

volume firm buys the short, closed-sleeve. Together, these three

firms account for 65 percent of the whole-stalk celery volume of the

retail firms interviewed. The remaining three firms that buy naked

celery exclusively account for 35 percent (Table 15).

The reasons given by retailers for buying naked or pre-sleeved

were similar in all three cities. Obviously, firms that typically

retail banded celery for reasons discussed in a later section (Retail

Merchandising Practices, Page 40) rarely, if ever, purchase sleeved

celery. However, since approximately three-fourths of the whole-

stalk celery is retailed in sleeves, attempts were made to determine

the firms' rationale for their purchasing decisions.

Firms that usually retail celery in sleeves but buy naked stalks

cited cost as the major reason, but not the sole reason. One firm

expressed a preference for sleeping at the store level for quality

control. Another preferred sleeping by firm personnel for affixing

their own produce label.

There is a move toward greater use of the standard cut (14-inch)

pre-sleeved celery by retailers. Three firms indicated tentative

plans to increase their purchase of the pre-sleeved product. The

primary reason given was that retailers have been faced with rapidly

escalating labor costs. The use of pre-sleeved celery is viewed by

many of them as a way of reducing labor requirements at the store

level. This trend was especially evident in Detroit, where labor

appeared to be well organized. Six firms specifically mentioned labor

savings in celery preparation as the most important reason for buying

pre-sleeved celery.

In addition to labor savings, several retailers felt that their

use of pre-sleeved celery reduced out-of-stock occurrences by making

it easier for even relatively low-paid, part-time help to keep the

display case filled. Three retailers also thought that pre-sleeved

celery was generally of better quality. They said it had less

bruising and that it was more uniform than naked-packed celery.

Reaction to shorter whole-stalk celery

Retailers and wholesalers were asked whether or not they had

handled the shorter-cut sleeved celery which has been available from

Florida and California for several seasons. Except for the very

largest firms, the wholesalers were not very familiar with it, as

most tend to handle naked celery.

When asked whether a shorter-cut naked whole-stalk celery

might be feasible, wholesalers were generally opposed to the idea.

Several pointed out that Florida celery was already slightly shorter

than that from California, and that a move to cut it still shorter

would be met with trade resistance. Only one wholesaler who was

engaged in celery repacking was amenable to a shorter stalk in order

to take advantage of freight savings.

Approximately half of the retailers were familiar with the

short-cut sleeved product; but, only one, a large-volume retailer

in Detroit, was regularly stocking it. Freight savings and longer

shelf-life were the reasons given for handling it. Another large

volume retailer that normally retails standard length sleeved celery

in Philadelphia expressed an interest in the short cut, but he was

fearful of consumer resistance. Most retailers, regardless of

market area or firm size, were negative toward shorter whole stalks.

Retailers generally felt that the longer stalk provided a better value

for the consumer, and attempts to shorten whole stalks would be notice-

able and objectionable to consumers. It should be pointed out that

the views expressed by wholesalers and retailers are for the most part

based on intuition and speculation, and not rigorous in-store experi-

ments or consumer studies.

Retail Merchandising Practices

Celery sales per store were found to vary considerably for the

firms interviewed in this study. However, it is extremely difficult,

if not impossible, to associate their celery sales volumes with

specific merchandising techniques as described by the firms' execu-

tives because many of their techniques are quite similar. Further,

many factors, such as a firm's overall position in the market, the

firm's clientele, and degree of emphasis on produce, influence celery

sales. In addition to executive interviews, a total of thirty super-

markets in the three cities were visited to observe merchandising


Supermarkets were found to adhere to the merchandising plan for

celery espoused by upper-level management, but considerable variation

was noted among stores' celery quality, .particularly with respect to

freshness. Details of the firms' general celery handling and merchan-

dising techniques follow. Attention is given to celery preparation

(particularly packaging), the type and amount of shelf space denoted

to celery, the quantity displayed, the frequency of price specials,

and preferences for point-of-purchase materials.

In-Store Handling, Preparation, and Reworking

Stores that receive pre-sleeved celery obviously perform little

preparation on it. Some firms and a few store-level produce managers

indicated occasional problems with excessive dirt in the sleeves or

yellowing leaves which require removal before the celery can be dis-

played. However, such problems are apparently infrequent.

Virtually all celery that is bought as naked stalks is prepared

at the retail store level. Several firms indicated that they had

done some sleeping at the warehouse level in recent years, but all

had discontinued the practice when interviewed.

Produce department personnel at the store level normally trim

the stalk butts and tops, remove loose or damaged ribs, and band or

sleeve it. Exact preparation time could not be accurately ascertained

from talking to executives or store employees, but estimates ranged

from 5 to 15 minutes per crate, depending on the arrival condition of

the celery. The source of the celery was not generally viewed as an

important factor influencing preparation time.

Retail packaging of whole stalks

Over half of the firms interviewed exhibited flexibility in mer-

chandising either banded or sleeved celery (Table 16). Typically,

stores would not have both kinds of packages simultaneously. Several

said that banding was used when turnover was high, but sleeping was

used (either pre-sleeved or sleeved at the store) when turnover was

slow. However, others said that pre-sleeved celery was used for high-

produce volume sales periods, particularly around holidays to ease

labor shortages. Some firms have stores that use primarily banded

and other stores that tend to retail sleeved celery.

Two Philadelphia firms use banded celery exclusively. One was

classified as a large-volume celery retailer and the other classified

as small. One medium-volume retailer in Boston and one large-volume

retailer in Detroit were found to retail banded celery exclusively

(Table 16). The firms which handled the banded product exclusively

complained that produce managers were lax in rotating sleeved celery;

several cited better quality control as the major benefit of band-

ing. Others said that banded celery created a "bulk" image that

stimulates impulse buying. One mentioned ease of reworking as an

important plus for banding, and another was afraid of consumer resis-

tance to bags that tend to "hide something."

Table 16.--Study firms' retail celery packaging preferences, by
market area

Type of Retail Packaging Total
Market Area Band Sleeve Band and/ Firms
Exclusively Exclusively or Sleeve Interviewed
-------------No. of Firms------------

Philadelphia 2 2 3 7

Boston 1 0 7 8

Detroit 1 3 2 6

Total 4 5 12 21

alncludes two full-service wholesalers with considerable retail con-
tact, one in Philadelphia, and one in Detroit.

Two firms in Philadelphia and three in Detroit retailed sleeved

celery exclusively, either pre-sleeved or store-sleeved. There were

none in Boston. The most frequent reason given for retailing sleeved

celery was improved shelf-life which results in less shrinkage and

reworking. One felt the packaged goods in general had more consumer

appeal and another thought that housewives preferred sleeved celery

because it was cleaner, i.e., not as messy to handle and store.

On a volume basis, approximately three-fourths is retailed in

sleeves and the remainder banded. The proportion sleeved was 70

percent in Philadelphia, 73 percent in Boston, and 78 percent in

Detroit (Table 17).

Table 17.--Type of celery packaging used by retailers as a percent
of total volume, by market area

Type of Packaging
Market Area Banded eeved Totals


Philadelphia 30 70 100

Boston 27 73 100

Detroit 22 78 100

All Areas 26 74 100


All retail executives were asked what proportion of their whole

stalks was usually reworked before being sold, but few could answer

with precision. The type of packaging, turnover rate, and produce

managers' attitude toward maintaining freshness and quality influence

the amount of reworking that is done to whole celery stalks.

Sleeving greatly reduces the necessity of reworking. Four of

those interviewed felt that less than one percent of the sleeved celery

had to be reworked. Most of the others would not specify a percentage,

but said that the quantity reworked was "minimal," or "very, very

small." However, firms that were retailing banded celery reported that

10 to 20 percent was reworked.


All firms interviewed sell celery by the unit, i.e., stalk or

package, and have no intentions of changing to selling by the pound.

Pricing by the pound, which would facilitate packing mixed sizes,

does not appear to be a viable alternative because of additional

labor costs involved in weighing.

Celery was found to be "specialled" quite frequently in all

three market areas. Several firms expressed a policy of featuring

celery "when the price was right," but they also mentioned that they

like to place celery on special in the early spring months when there

are few produce items in abundant supply. Two firms reported having

celery on special twice or more per month throughout most of the

year (Table 18). The greatest number, seven, indicated that they try

to place celery on special about once per month, and four special

price it once every two months. Many firms use celery as a featured,

specially-priced item around major holidays. Most firms estimate

that specials usually double or triple celery sales volume.

Table 18.--Frequency of celery price specials by major retailers, all
market areas

Frequency of Price Specials Number of Firms

Twice per month or more 2

Once per month 7

Once every two months 4

Major holidays only 1

Not ascertained 5

Total 19

Display Techniques

All firms contacted that sold hearts displayed them in horizontal

rows in refrigerated racks. Most firms displayed whole celery stalks

in a similar manner, but two placed them in an upright position in a

series of vertical rows.

There were three firms, one in each city, that usually display

whole stalks on ice, at least in a sizeable number of stores. One

firm which uses ice placed the stalks in an upright position as dis-

cribed above and the two others placed stalks in horizontal rows on

ice. Adequate sales data were not available to permit a thorough

evaluation of the effectiveness of displaying celery on ice, but its

use did not appear to increase celery sales appreciably. Only one

firm, a small celery volume retailer, displayed Florida and California

celery simultaneously. The Florida celery was typically sold for

10 cents per stalk less than California celery.

On the average, firms in all cities were found to display from

three-fourths of a crate to one crate of whole stalks per row and one

carton of hearts per row. However, store managers try to adjust the

quantity displayed to their anticipated daily sales volume to reduce

shrinkage, poor product appearance, and subsequent reworking. The

quantity of celery displayed is usually less during the low-volume,

early portion of the week and greater for the higher-volume weekend


Display Space

In Philadelphia, most firms typically display two or three rows

of whole stalks a- nne row of hearts. Rows are usually 36" long, *he

average depth of the refrigerated racks. However, in Boston, there

was greater variability among firms as to the number of rows of whole

stalks displayed. The number of rows ranged from one to four, and

bore no relationship to the firm's size. Firms in Boston also reported

considerably more display space allocated to hearts. Most Boston

retailers display two rows of hearts, and one reported a usual display

of three to four rows. Retailers in Detroit were very consistent in

the amount of display space allocated to celery. Without exception,

all firms reported that they typically display two rows of stalks and

one row of hearts.

The amount of display space allocated to celery is usually deter-

mined by the firms' produce merchandisers. Most reported that adver-

tised price specials are accompanied by a 50-to-100 percent increase

in shelf space. In addition to allocating an additional row or two

to celery, some merchandisers recommend Using "waterfall" displays for

specials. This is an extended shelf that is sometimes supported by

cartons stacked on the floor in front of the refrigerated rack.

Since display space is usually allocated on the basis of a speci-

fic number of "rows" of a particular item, the width of the product

is important. If produce merchandisers habitually recommend "x" rows

of display space to celery, a reduction in stalk length could result

in a proportionate decrease in display space.


"Tie-ins," products that are jointly promoted with celery, were

used by two-thirds of the firms interviewed. One of the most frequently

mentioned tie-in activities was promotion of Waldorf salad items. Eight

of the fourteen firms that use tie-ins with celery mentioned "Waldorf

salad," or specifically mentioned the other major ingredients, namely

apples and walnuts (Table 19). Five firms reported that they use

celery as an integral part of their salad item display. Some reported

using "mix-and-match" sales where the consumer can choose among several

salad items for some multiple price, such as 3 for 89W, etc.

Salad dressings were mentioned by four retailers. Dressings are

often displayed in produce sections, but it is doubtful if such tie-ins

do much specifically for the promotion of celery. Cheese, in several

firms, is a popular tie-in item. Cream cheese was mentioned five

times, cheese spreads four, and "cheese" (not specified) twice.

Peanut butter was also a frequently mentioned item. Four firms

reported using it as a tie-in item along with related point-of-purchase

material provided by the Florida Celery Exchange. Other infrequently

used tie-in items included carrots, potato salad, and marshmallows

(Table 19).

Promotional Activities

The term "promotional activities" is used in a general sense

and refers to any concerted, industry-wide effort to enhance sales

through point-of-purchase (POP) materials, promotional allowances,

display contests, etc. Retailers and full-service wholesalers were

interviewed to determine the extent of such efforts by other celery

growing areas, the promotional activities preferred, and any suggestions

for improvements.

Table 19--Celery "tie-ins," products commonly promoted in conjunction
with celery by retailers.

Tie-In Items Retailers Reporting

"Waldorf Salad" 5
Apples 3
Walnuts 1

Salad Items (General) 5
Carrots 1
Potato Salad 1
Salad Dressings 4

Cheese (General) 2
Cheese Spreads 4
Cream Cheese 5

Peanut Butter 4

Marshmallows 1

The consensus was that Florida is the,only celery-growing area that

regularly engages in promotional activities. Fourteen firms said that

California had no promotional activities, four were uncertain, and only

one thought that California had recently provided POP materials. Four

interviewees recalled a Waldorf salad promotion which featured celery,

walnuts, and Washington apples, but several could not recall the source

of the promotion. Additionally, several mentioned Kraft's salad dress-

ing promotion which emphasizes salad vegetables, including celery. In

contrast, about three-fourths of those interviewed were aware of Florida's

celery promotional activities, particularly the POP material, and most

comments were favorable.

In addition to expressing a generally favorable attitude toward

POP material, several of the 19 retailers interviewed mentioned a variety

of other activities which they preferred and felt could be utilized by

the Florida celery industry to promote Florida celery. Three expressed

a preference for promotional allowances, two wanted more information on

"tie-in" products which could be promoted in conjunction with celery,

and two indicated a need for advance price information to assist in

planning for specials. Several of those interviewed were particularly

pleased with the "Mail-gram" that was used this year. Two-week notices

give most retailers adequate time to plan advertising programs. Some

degree of protection encourages them to advertise, increase display

shelf space, and thus dramatically increase celery sales. One firm

mentioned the possibility of display contests, but the perishable nature

of the product would probably reduce their effectiveness.

Point-of-Purchase Material

Point-of-purchase material is generally well received by the firms

interviewed. However, several large retailers indicated a trend away

from POP material. One of these cited a company policy of store uniform-

ity and neatness, and stated that POP material results in a cluttered

appearance. Another said that increasing labor costs were reducing his

firm's use of POP materials; he felt that the major labor cost was due

to increased maintenance, i.e., removal of POP material. Three execu-

tives specifically expressed a dislike of stick-on materials, or those

that must be taped in place.

Several produce merchandisers were familiar with the celery stalk

cutout that haz been included in recent promotion kits. Five said that

they liked it, but two did not because the shape did not conform to their

preferred format for POP materials. Several of those interviewed

reported receiving celery-peanut butter promotional material, but

one voiced disappointment over not having received it.

Most retailers expressed a preference for "smaller--not larger"

materials. The most popular dimensions (vertical-horizontal) were

7" x 11", cited as a first choice by about half of the produce execu-

tives. The next most frequent first choice was the 11" x 14" size.

A few others gave 5" x 9", 5 1/2" x 9", or 5 x 11" as first choices

(Table 20). The few that expressed a need for larger materials were

the smaller retailers.

Price cards were the materials most preferred. A frequent com-

plaint was that promotion kits are generally received once per season

and usually have one (or at least a small number),of price cards. Once

they are used, the price cards are thrown away because of the possi-

bility of price changes.

Five firms expressed an interest in reusable price cards. Plastic,

wipe-clean cards and cards with interchangeable price numbers were sug-

gested. A cheaper alternative would probably be to supply more price

cards in each kit or provide price cards several times each season. All

those preferring price cards desired high-quality materials with attractive

color pictures of the product. POP materials with a 'cheap" appearance

would not be used, according to those interviewed.

Six firms reported that recipes are excellent for promotions. Sug-

gested distribution methods included recipe tear pads and recipes printed

on plastic produce bags.

Table 20.--Retailers and full-service wholesalers'
ences for point-of-purchase materials,

dimensions prefer-
all market areas

Dimensions First Second
Vertical Horizontal Choice Choice

Inches Number of Responses

5 9 1
5 7 2
5 8 1
5 11 1
5 11 1
5 14 1
7 11 10 1
11 14 9 3
14 11 2
22 28 1
24 36 1
>24a >36a 2

aTwo respondents wanted "window signs" but were unsure of the dimensions.


Florida celery movement in Philadelphia and Detroit increases

rapidly during November and December. Purchases in Boston lag some-

what, but Florida has displaced California as the dominant supplier

in all three market areas during the major part of the Florida season,

January through May. Florida's proximity to these major markets

results in substantial savings in transportation costs and transit

time. These savings have allowed the Florida celery industry to com-

pete in these markets on a price basis for many years, even though

product quality was frequently below that of competing areas, primarily

California. Florida's position is getting stronger, however. Further

increases in transportation costs have enhanced Florida's locational

advantage. Rail service, important to the California celery industry,

has become more expensive, and service to the northeast remains rela-

tively poor.

One of the most important factors contributing to Florida's improved

position in these markets has been improved product quality. A majority

of the wholesalers and retailers interviewed were extremely complimentary

of Florida celery. Many said that noticeable improvements had been made

within the last two or three years. On the point-by-point product charac-

teristic comparisons, the overall quality of Florida's celery was seen

to be very comparable to California's.

There are a few die-hards, however. Their images of quality dif-

ferences have been developed over a long period of time and will change

slowly unless efforts are made to refute misconceptions. Florida's

I ,

celery quality during the past several seasons has done much to build

a better image. But, this improved image can be lost quickly if quality

is not rigorously maintained.

As for the pack, there are no serious shortcomings for Florida's

celery compared to other growing areas. A few shippers have problems,

but the Florida celery industry as a whole is doing a relatively good

packing job. However, it is important to note the general trends.

There is a shifting preference, particularly among retailers, for the

waxed carton. Its use will require thorough pre-cooling and a monitor-

ing to insure that cartons are arriving at their destinations in satis-

factory condition. Another emerging preference is for somewhat lighter

containers, preferably no more than 40 to 45 pounds. This suggestion

was made by several retailers judged to be innovators. They reasoned

that the smaller container would not only be easier for personnel to lift,

but it would also reduce product damage caused by rough handling of heavy


Sleeving is apparently one of the most practical package types in

which to retail celery. Labor costs at the store level are reduced

through less preparation time, less clean up, and less re-working.

Sleeving can probably be done more efficiently at the packing house level

than at retail. Most retailers do not know what sleeping at the store

level costs, but with rapidly escalating labor costs, it is important for

them to know. The Florida celery industry is in a better position to

take advantage of the efficiencies gained through sleeping than the

California celery industry because of shorter transit time; Florida has

a minimum advantage of approximately two days. With proper handling,

Florida celery can be sleeved at the shipping point and quality main-

tained satisfactorily, but the trade must be convinced.

As for shorter-cut, closed-sleeved celery, the added shelf-life
achieved by removing leaves does not appear to be necessary for most

retailers. The shelf-life of celery available presently is generally

adequate. Many feel that the shorter length with fewer leaves lacks

customer appeal; a few contend that the shorter length and few leaves

make no difference to the consumer and that transportation savings and

added shelf-life make it a desirable product to handle. One considera-

tion is that California's whole stalks are generally a little longer

than Florida's. A move to force shorter stalks on retailers would

require California's cooperation or it would probably fail. Further,

there is much speculation on what the consumer likes, but little or no

concrete information.

Celery hearts constitute an important part of retail celery sales,

but repackers evidently fill a substantial portion of retailers' heart

requirements. A slightly fancier package, i.e., the tray-poly bag, may

be one means of increasing the Florida celery industry's share of the
heart-packing business in some market areas. Similarly, a short (8 1/2")

heart appeals to some retailers and offers additional shelf-life, It

would also offer a greater contrast to shorter-cut, closed-sleeved, whole

stalks. This contrast would remove one objection to the short-cut stalks

that they "look too much like hearts."

Pricing of celery by the pound, which would permit packing of mixed

sizes, does not appear to be a viable alternative to the presently-used

unit price. The obvious reason is the additional labor required at the

store level for weighing.

The Florida celery industry has done a reasonably good promotional

job in the cities included in this study. However, retailers offered

suggestions for improvement. Several pointed out that celery is a

basic item that they tend to overlook in their promotional planning.

On the other hand, some said that Florida's celery season occurs at a

time of the year when fresh produce items are generally in short supply,

and Florida celery lends itself well to promotions. Since celery is

only one of a great many items that produce buyers and merchandisers

have to deal with, frequent reminders of various kinds can serve to keep

celery visible with the trade.

One very effective such reminder was the Mail-gram that has been

used. The nature of competition at the retail level makes "specials"

essential to firms' advertising and promotional programs. Advance

information which provides some degree of price protection enables firms

to make advertising plans for price specials. Several firms said that

they were not as concerned with the level of prices as long as they knew

they were stable and that their competition could not obtain supplies at

a lower price.

Two retailers suggested that some firms buy California celery out

of habit, without a re-evaluation of Florida's quality. They suggested

a case-allowance program to "break the habit."

Periodic distribution of point-of-purchase (POP) materials through-

out the season may be another way to keep celery visible. A number of

retailers said that they do not get POP materials frequently enough,

especially price-cards. Materials must be high quality, and fairly

small. While the most popular sizes are still 7" x 11" and 11" x 14",

the trend is to smaller materials. Many kinds of low-cost promotional

tools can be effectively used to promote Florida celery to the retail

trade. The objective is to remain visible by helping retailers do

their job better or easier, thus encouraging them to move more celery,


The following general recommendations are made to the Florida

Celery Exchange as a result of this study:

Maintain a production research and improvement program
which will continue to improve Florida celery.

Develop and enforce effective industry quality standards
which will enhance and protect the favorable image of
Florida celery which is emerging in the produce trade.

Encourage shippers to improve pre-cooling.

Since Florida celery is increasingly viewed as equivalent
in quality to California's, transportation differentials
from both areas to major markets should be monitored and
analyzed in order to optimize Florida returns.

Determine consumer response to various packaging types,
stalk and heart lengths, and display space. Shorter,
closed-sleeve celery may stimulate, depress, or have no
effect on sales and profits for growers, shippers and
retailers. Everyone speculates but few know what effects

Determine packaging costs at the shipping and retail levels.
Packaging efficiencies may be discovered and documented
which would benefit the Florida celery industry.

Explore improved packaging for celery hearts and also the
possibility of offering a shorter-cut heart.

Review the promotional program. Provide accurate advance
price information periodically to stimulate movement. Retailers
have to come up with products to feature every few days and such
information reminds them to use celery. Also, periodic supplies
of price cards would serve to keep celery visible, Make certain
that each chain receives adequate materials for all stores; if
there are not enough to go around, firms generally will not use
any of them.


Most of these recommendations involve many interrelated changes

that would require considerable time and resources for further evalu-

ation and for possible implementation. They are not intended as ulti-

mate answers, but rather as suggestions to keep the Florida celery

industry moving toward greater prominence in produce marketing.




i'. Quantity of celery bought per (week) (month) (year)

2. How do you normally buy: broker %, direct (packer) %,
wholesaler %.

3. What proportion of produce sales does celery represent? %.

4. Source by month.

State J F M A M J J A S O N D


5. What proporti-on of celery arrives: by rail _%?
by truck %?

6. Which do you prefer?




7. Crates -- Arrival Condition

% Crates California Excellent Fair Poor % damage

% Crates Florida Excellent Fair Poor % damage


Effect on Product Quality

8. Waxed Cartons -- Arrival Condition
% Crates California: Excellent Fair Poor % damage
% Crates Florida: Excellent Fair Poor % damage

Effect on Product Quality

9. Plastic Cartons -- Arrival Condition
% Crates California: Excellent Fair Poor % damage
% Crates Florida: Excellent Fair Poor % damage

Effect on Product Quality_

10, What is your opinion of the 60 lb. crate size for Florida celery?
1. OK as is.

2. Should be changed to

11. Product Considerations:
1. What fresh celery products do your stores normally carry?
Whole Stalks: Size(s), Length(s)
Hearts: Size(s), Length(s)

2. Uniformity of pack:
a. Uniformity of stalk size: Fla. Ca.
b. Correct No. or count of stalks per crate:
Fla. Ca.

3. How does the color of Florida celery compare.with that
grown in other areas?

4. Quantity of leaves: Fla.

5. Quantity of leaves:

6. Compactness: Fla.

7. Rib Curvature: Fla.


8. Physical damage:

a. loose ribs: Fla. Ca.
b. cut or bruised: Fla. Ca.
c. uneven length: Fla. Ca..
9. Insect damage: Fla. Ca.

10. Feather leaves: Fla. Ca.
11. Cleanliness: Fla. Ca.
12. Product Deterioration: Fla. Ca.
13. Shelf Life: Fla. Ca.

14. What do you consider to be the most significant criticisms
of Florida celery?

15. What do you consider as the best characteristics of Florida

16. What stalk lengths have you handled in recent years?

17. Which length do you prefer?


12. Packaging

How is celery usually bought by your firm?

1. Plain Whole Stalks % Why?___,
2. Open-Sleeved Whole Stalks % Why?
3. Closed-Sleeved Whole Stalks % Why?_

4. Bagged Whole Stalks
5. Bagged Hearts

,,______% Why?
% Why?_

What type of packaging or preparation, if any, is done on plain
stalks received by your firm? R
Cost Dist. whole-
Comments Stalk/Crate Store Center saler
None _% S DC RW
Banding % rubber/twist S DC RW
Sleeving_ ____% S DC RW
Bagging_ % S DC RW
Overwrap _____ % S DC RW
Other % S DC RW

What kind of packaging, if any, do you feel the

consumer prefers?

Is she willing to pay the price for it?

13. Retailing Practices

1. Display:
a. typical quantity stalks/crates
b. typical area _sq. ft./"rows"
c. special displays
d. tie-ins

2. Re-Working:

What proportion of [

I is reworked?

Plain %_
Banded _%
Open-Sleeved __%
Closed-Sleeved %
Bagged %__

3. What kind of promotional activities are offered by
other growing areas?

4. What kind of promotional activities do you prefer?

5. What specific kinds of POP material can you use?

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