Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Original Link: 10 Hot New Consumer Trends in Produce
It pays to know what consumers are looking for, experiencing and
embracing when they shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. According to
FFVA producer members and others in the industry, 10 trends are defining
the marketplace for fresh produce in 2012 and beyond.
Awareness of health benefits
Consumers are much more attuned to the health benefits of fruits and
vegetables than in decades past. For example, the Nielsen Perishables
Group says sales of avocados are up 8 percent from 2009. Jan DeLyser,
vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission, told
Progressive Grocer that’s because people have learned that they are rich
in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and full of fiber. “In the
mid-‘90s, three-quarters of people polled about avocados responded that
lack of healthfulness was a barrier to purchase. Today, it’s just the
opposite,” DeLyser said.
Another fruit that quickly disappears from the produce shelves because
of its healthy properties is blueberries. The USDA Economic Research
Service’s data show an impressive increase in national per-capita
consumption of blueberries, rising from 0.26 pounds in 2000 to 1.11
pounds in 2010. “Talking about the many health benefits of blueberries
is our biggest marketing tool,” said blueberry grower Bill Braswell.
The concept of branded produce is picking up steam as well. The Florida
Sweet Corn Exchange recently unveiled the Sunshine Sweet Corn brand,
emphasizing the corn’s exceptional taste.
Elizabeth Peterson, public relations and media manager at Plant
City-based producer Wish Farms, understands why branding has become a
hot trend. “It’s instinctual for people to purchase a brand they are
familiar with, and it’s easier to make a purchase when you can relate
the product to a previous experience,” she said. “Being able to trust a
particular brand provides reassurance, making your shopping experience
Buy local/know your farmer
Consumers continue to have a keen interest in knowing where their food
comes from, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan recently told the Associated Press that
the local food movement is “the biggest retail food trend in my adult
Although the definition of “locally grown” differs, the trend is
thriving as more small farms, farmers markets and specialty food makers
are selling goods to nearby customers. Vermont ranks as the state with
the most successful local food movement with 99 farmers markets and 164
community supported agriculture entities serving a population of less
than 622,000. Other states that strongly support locally grown/produced
food are Iowa, Montana, Maine and Hawaii. Surprisingly, Florida was in
the bottom five with only 146 farmers markets and 193 CSAs for 18.5
million people. However, because Florida produces a wide variety of
fresh produce in the spring, fall and winter, shoppers can find fruits
and vegetables grown in-state almost year-round. The statistics were
compiled in the 2012 Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index, which used
USDA and census figures.
Restaurants are embracing the locally grown movement as well.
Bradenton’s Pier 22 incorporates as much locally grown food as possible
in its menu, including locally caught snapper and grouper. The
restaurant will host a sustainable cooking class May 24. Companies such
as the Suncoast Food Alliance specialize in delivering local food to
restaurants that are interested in sourcing food produced nearby. Its
website says that “as a marketing and distribution company of locally
grown products, the Suncoast Food Alliance is bridging the divide to
meet the local demand for fresh items.”
Further, buying locally grown produce and other food helps to support
American farmers and prevent waste of healthy food. FFVA executive
committee member Teena Borek says that 60 percent to 70 percent of this
past winter’s tomatoes grown in the Homestead area never found buyers
because of cheap imports coming from Mexico.
“Free trade is not necessarily fair trade,” Borek said. “We need people
to go to the supermarket and insist on local produce when it’s in
season. They need to use social media to spread the word as well. When
the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed in 1994, all we could
do was go to Washington, D.C., and say it wasn’t fair. We took out
expensive newspaper ads. Now people can demand food grown in this
country by getting on Twitter and Facebook. It’s free and it works at a
Evolving community supported agriculture
The first CSAs were founded in the 1980s as a solution to the
disappearance of the family farm. They invited local consumers to share
both the harvest and the risk of farming by paying in advance for a
season’s worth of bounty. Shareholders made bids for payments to cover
the farm’s budget and shared the rewards if they arrived.
Today, many CSAs are much different – they’re more like a subscription
for a weekly box of produce. Something will always come, even if has
nothing to do with a local farm, and there’s no need to commit. Here is
an example of a fine company that does a great job at what they do, but
customers do not share in the risk as they would in a traditional CSA. A
nice selection of produce will always arrive on a customer's delivery
True CSAs do still exist, even though the concept has evolved.
Use of social media
In addition to allowing consumers to demand food grown in the United
States, social media allows producers to interact on a personal level
Darrel Genthner of citrus, juice and blueberry producer Wm. G. Roe and
Sons says the company uses Facebook and Twitter to increase sales. “We
have conducted advertising campaigns in Atlanta and Florida on Facebook.
We’re also consistently expanding our Facebook page’s fan base and
engaging in ongoing communication with our customers to help them learn
more about the Noble Juice brand. We’ve seen our sales percentages
increase in the double digits over the previous year.” Facebook posts
often provide links to coupons on the company’s website.
Social media also provides an opportunity to connect with customers in
case of a crisis. In case of emergency, a company should be among the
first to post the news – first on its website and then “on every single
social media channel you have. It’s called taking responsibility and
showing you care,” PR Daily reports.
Transparency and traceability
Elizabeth Peterson says Wish Farms uses FreshQC ™, a patented tool for
traceability that provides specific information on each package of
strawberries, blueberries and grape tomatoes. Customers may scan the
label with a smart phone to learn more about the product and its origin.
Data such as grower, field, harvester, time of harvest, variety,
planting date, and nursery source is stored electronically and can be
accessed by the grower as needed.
“FreshQC was originally developed as a system for quality control, but
it quickly became a way for us to connect with our customers and hear
about their experience with our produce,” said Peterson. “Every package
of Wish Farms produce features a FreshQC™ sticker on top with the
question, ‘How’s my picking?’ With this we are actually soliciting
feedback, inviting consumers to tell us exactly what they think.”
Consumer outreach and promotion
Another way Wish Farms communicates its brand is to reach out to
attendees of the Plant City Strawberry Festival. For the second year,
Wish Farms sponsored the event’s soundstage. “As the title sponsor, our
signage was displayed throughout the Strawberry Festival Amphitheatre,
and we featured promotional videos before each concert performance,”
This year also brought a blueberry festival to Florida to showcase the
expanding availability of the product grown in the state. And blueberry
wine is starting to make its presence known.
New trends in value-added
Many produce companies are also packaging their products for consumer convenience to stimulate purchasing.
Green Giant Fresh has seen increases in sales from marketing of side
dish-type packages, such as Sweet Carrot Slaw and Tri-Color Slaws,
combinations of cabbage and other vegetables. Other items such as
fruit-and-dip combinations, veggie-and-dip combos and party tray
configurations tap into the snack market.
Wish Farms sells value-added tray packs for bell pepper, squash and
zucchini. “It’s a product that is more attractive to the consumers, and
it’s been in higher demand from the retailers,” said Peterson.
Changes in the produce aisle
Supermarkets evolve constantly to take advantage of newly acquired
knowledge of how people shop and how to get them to make purchases. The
Wall Street Journal noted that the produce section “has become the
equivalent of the popular kids’ school lunch table.” Packaged food
manufacturers are clamoring to place their products among the fresh
fruits and vegetables because they say shoppers perceive produce to be
wholesome, fresh and of high quality.
Another trend in food merchandising is that people don’t just buy food
at the grocery store anymore. Although the grocery industry has added
millions of square feet of capacity, it’s not being built in grocery
stores. People are buying food in places like supercenters, dollar
stores, drug stores, liquor stores, airports and specialty shops.
Technology in the supermarket
A growing number of shoppers are using Web-based smart phone
applications such as Grocery Gadget when they go grocery shopping. These
apps allow shoppers to update lists, find specials, scan barcodes and
more. One even lets the shopper shift items that haven’t been put in the
cart yet to the top of the list by shaking the phone.
And that’s just the beginning of what can be done with a smart phone at
the grocery store. Last summer, supermarket giant Tesco created virtual
grocery stores in places like subway stations in South Korea. Images of
products are scanned using smart phones and the order is delivered to
the shopper’s door later that day.
In the United States, Peapod has taken a cue from Tesco and built
virtual groceries in nine cities including Chicago, where it has taken
over a 60-foot pedestrian tunnel at a downtown subway station.
Other innovations in shopping include hand scanners, which allow
shoppers to scan as they shop and avoid the checkout hassle. Some chains
have installed “broccoli cams” that monitor produce bins and determine
when restocking is necessary. Electronic shelf edge labels are also
being used to easily update pricing information. Watch more here.
With more and more shoppers strapped for time, consumer trends are
likely to continue to be driven by the need for convenience without
sacrificing quality or increasing cost. In addition, new technologies
will continue to allow consumers to access more information about what
they eat, who’s providing it and where it’s produced. With the
technology available, shoppers are more likely then ever to demand that
extra information in order to make educated purchases.