Power of Produce: The Produce Department through the Shoppers’ Eyes – Part I
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
According to IRI data, produce at retail is a large, profitable and growing category that represents over 33% of fresh sales. Given these stats and the growing consumer interest in holistic health, produce has the power to drive increase sales and customer loyalty for supermarkets. To understand what shoppers think about produce, the Food Marketing Institute recently released their third annual report, “The Power of Produce – an in-depth look at the produce department through the shopper’s eyes.” They surveyed 1,700 consumers utilizing questions of importance from suppliers and retailers. Below are five of the key findings followed by tactics that supermarket dietitians can implement to help drive more produce sales:
1. Price and promotions can drive traffic in the produce department, but appearance and quality are vastly more important to consumers when making purchasing decisions.
- Suggest seasonal merchandising displays to create eye catching exhbits – summer smoothies, fruit/wine pairings for holidays, etc.
- Plan solution-based demos that provide an opportunity to sample products while providing usage tips.
2. Many shoppers routinely purchase the same produce items but would appreciate tips to expand their knowledge about new or uncommon products.
- Provide selection and preparation tips for unfamiliar products, along with ways to include in meals to move shoppers out of their comfort zone.
- Highlight a new pick of the week to draw attention to interesting produce items. Offer tips on how to select, buy, store and prepare.
3. While supermarkets capture most of produce purchases, Millennials are driving growth in alternative channels. Supercenters have a strong everyday price perception and specialty organic stores and farmers’ markets win with special attribute items, including local and organic.
- Leverage technology to promote produce – offer electronic coupons for seasonal items, new organic choices, or seasonal local products.
- Millennials love ethnic flavors so suggest simply produce recipes that offer popular cultural flavors.
4. The dominance of the paper circular is diminishing in favor of greater in-store and digital communication.
- Leverage digital ads for shopper education, including recipes, product, origin or grower information. Kroger, for example, recently released their OptUP App which provides a “nutritional score” for the items you buy as well as suggestions to help you opt up to healthier choices.
- Offer digital sales linked to targeted stores or seasonal products of importance.
5. Shoppers continue to support locally-grown products with 54% hoping for an expanded local selection. Consumers’ definition of local is settling on a mile radius and state lines with supporting the local farmers/economy being the top reason for purchasing local.
- Ensure in-store signage clearly points out local products and include stories to connect shoppers to the farm and grower.
- Train produce associates to provide key talking points on local products including nutritional attributes; usage tips; how to store; etc.
- Include local produce items in meat solution merchandising and meal kits – tie items to programs like family meals.