News & Resources

Stay up-to-date with the latest industry news. Sign-up for alerts, tips and advice, research and industry invitations delivered straight to your inbox – Sign-Up

Success breeds success for retail education program


Training store produce staff on best practice merchandising and identification of damaged fruit is leading to improved instore presentation of apples and pears.

A 2022 program that delivered an improvement in the instore quality of apples and pears is being repeated this year through a new joint-funded marketing and research and development initiative that is already having an impact. 

The program builds on the FY22 program, which was launched across 700 stores, and delivered by field sales and retail marketing group Strikeforce. It is funded by Hort Innovation through the AP22000–MT22502 Apple and Pear Retail Education Program. 

First trialled with success in 2021, the program last year produced tangible results and a strong return on investment through addressing retailers’ knowledge gaps, according to Hort Innovation customer marketing manager, Jessica Street. 

“Based on the positive outcomes from the 2022 effort, we received advice from the Apple and Pear Strategic Marketing Panel (SMP) to expand the program in 2023,” Jessica said. 

“This year we have upweighted this program to include two 11-week bursts of activity in 1,200 stores. The first burst is from March to June, with the second burst likely to be August to October, although that is yet to be confirmed.” 

Hort Innovation has also received advice from the recent apple and pear industry workshop and SMP meetings to continue the program in FY24. 

The current program aims to improve grower return on investment, as well as consumer experience, by training and educating store produce staff on best practice merchandising and identification of damaged fruit to embed a ‘quality first’ mindset based upon industry best standards.

Educational posters for fresh produce staff provide tips for displaying apples and pears to further embed the merchandising training.


Another key objective is to improve consumer experience and therefore consumer demand of apples and pears by ensuring displays are full, neat and free from damaged fruit. 

The program also aims to facilitate the unbiased collection of audit data by store to assess, monitor and report on project progress – on fruit quality, merchandising standards and availability of stock. Providing clear and concise resource material to store staff in the form of educational posters and videos to further embed the training is another objective. 

In the month to 28 April 2023, the program achieved the following results: 

  • More than 3,300 staff members attended educational training sessions conducted instore by Strikeforce. 
  • More than 1,800 post-education resource links have been provided for future reference. 
  • Quality improvements were recorded for both apples and pears. More than 80 per cent of fruit on display was rated good (on show with no defects); apples 85.7 per cent and pears 80.9 per cent. 
  • Of the fruit on show identified with defects, scars/sunburn/hail marks accounted for almost one in four defects in apples, with bruises accounting for three out of four identified defects in apples, and scars/sunburn/hail marks accounted for one out of two identified defects in pears. 
  • Availability was good, with 86.6 per cent of apple displays at least three quarters full, and 81.8 per cent of pear displays at least three quarters full. 

Throughout the program, Hort Innovation is sharing with retailers and industry the results of the instore audits, with retailers working with individual stores to improve standards. 

Further reading 

Enhanced shopping experience for apple and pear customers: 

Instore merchandising a shared responsibility: 

This article was first published in the Winter 2023 edition of AFG.

Go Back to Latest News