Top Trends in Fresh Foods
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
A recent report from IRI and FMI indicates that the fresh food business of 2025 will be much different than that of 2015. The report also suggests that retailers must be forward-looking, data-driven and break from tradition to keep pace with the rate of change. Here are some report highlights:
- Consumers are driving choice and change in fresh. Specifically, middle class families and metro singles who are shopping more club and specialty stores that provide lower cost solutions for fresh foods.
- Deli meals are dropping in sales as branded, prepackaged, refrigerated meals and side dishes gain sales.
- E-commerce is driving significant growth for fresh foods and this includes sales from Amazon, Instacart and curbside pickup.
- There are several consumer trends that have merged into an “interconnected mosaic” which is triggering fresh food transformation. Three trends that are intertwined include holistic health, localization and the technology connected consumer. Consider 82% of consumers use food and beverages as part of their overall health plan (IRI 2020) and 88% of offline buying occurs after online research (Accenture).
- Fresh prepared foods, convenience and customization are also key trends that are interwoven but the popularity in convenient options is changing. Value-added product sales, like pre-cut produce, are up by 4.8%. Meal kits, however, are now flat in sales and subscription services for kits are also declining. Specialized meal programs such as Sun Basket (organic meals), and Yumble (kid focused meals) are doing better. Heat and eat meals are only up slightly in sales.
- Traceability and unique availability of products can provide sales opportunities. For example, Wegman’s is selling new specialty bred produce from Row 7, a seed company led by celebrity chef Dan Barber.
- Meal solutions that allow customization and personalization plus technology are emerging as winning propositions. Consider Publix’s popular custom-made sandwiches which can now be ordered online for pick up.
With an understanding of the trends that will be driving fresh department sales, retail RDs can make a plan to use their expertise to help drive sales. From promoting your store’s abundance of value-added fresh foods in customized “assembly only” meals, to connecting meal plans, prep tips and nutrition attributes to online shopping, the opportunities are many.