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Shopping for Upscale Produce at Southern California’s Gelson’s

November 24, 2023

In October, as part of the Global Produce and Floral Show organized by the International Fresh Produce Association, Produce Report toured the Gelson’s Markets store in Long Beach, California. Gelson’s is an upscale supermarket chain with 28 locations across Southern California and caters to the trendier, more affluent shoppers that make up its customer base, including many Hollywood stars and celebrities. The retailer’s Long Beach location that Produce Report visited boasts a wine and tapas bar, a large selection of craft beers, and an extensive indoor and outdoor dining area complete with rooftop seating and a fireplace.

Gelson’s is known for its premium and exotic products, which were on full display during the tour. Upon entering the store, tour members were offered cut samples of juicy pink pineapples. Developed by Fresh Del Monte and distributed by Melissa’s Produce, the largest distributor of specialty produce in the United States, these Pinkglow pineapples have a unique “candy pineapple” flavor and are juicier and sweeter than traditional pineapples. Other exotic items on offer included Melissa’s Waterloupe melons, which combine the texture of a watermelon with the look and flavor of a cantaloupe for an overall juicier, sweeter melon.

Exotic fruits such as Waterloupe melons are a common sight at Gelson’s.

Fresh produce represents on average 20% of the chain’s total sales, and in-store fresh fruit and vegetable displays are meticulously arranged and deliciously presented for a discerning clientele. Nearly half of the 300 fresh produce items on offer are grown locally in California. Meanwhile, organic items account for more than one-quarter of fresh produce sales, and the retailer expects these items to remain a strong sales booster over the next several years.

Organic vegetables on display at Gelson’s.

Among the top sellers at Gelson’s are its California- (when in season) and Mexico-grown avocados, which are known for their high quality, large size and small pits. The members of the tour noticed Gelson’s staff rotating ripe avocados to the top of carefully arranged piles, placing “ripe and ready to eat” labels to let shoppers know which avocados could be reliably used that same day. Blueberries are another top seller, with Gelson’s only carrying jumbo-sized and organic varieties, and Envy apples round out the top-three list of most purchased fresh fruit. Other popular fresh produce items on offer include Cotton Candy table grapes, Lucy red-fleshed apples and freshly cut fruit.

Avocado displays are frequently rotated to put the ripest on top.

Founded in 1951 by brothers Bernard and Eugene Gelson, Gelson’s is known for its large selection of high-quality products ranging from fresh produce, meat and dairy to prepared foods and dry goods. Despite being an upscale supermarket, neither Gelson’s nor its customers have been immune to the effects of inflation. The retailer has noticed that its customers have become more value-oriented in recent years and expects this trend to continue. As with many other supermarkets, remaining affordable while meeting margin expectations remains a finely tuned balancing act for the retailer.

Images: © 2023 Produce Report


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