Can POP take Fresh in 2022? POP – Power of Produce, has weakened over recent years serving as a reminder for fresh food retailers to renew focus on strategies to grow the category. The pandemic had a major impact on produce purchasing habits and the consumer data in the freshly released FMI—the Food Industry Association’s 2022 Power of Produce report, is very telling of the permanency of that impact.
According to the report, 25% of shoppers ranked the price of produce the number one factor when making fresh produce purchasing decisions in 2021, followed by appearance (19%), health benefits (19%), and ripeness (15%).
The report also reveals many consumers skipped out on the trips to the supermarket, opting for online ordering during the upswing in COVID-19 cases during the Fall. As a result, produce consumption dropped from 66% in 2017 to 54% due to the decrease in basket size. Pair that with the continuing supply chain challenges and record-breaking inflation rates…it sounds like the recipe to a perfect storm, doesn’t it?
Not necessarily. There is a sunny underlining message in the report revealing an abundance of potential in produce to accelerate growth in fresh – opportunities primarily brought on by the very shifts in consumer behavior.
For grocers looking to use the produce department to set themselves apart from the competition, success is dependent on the willingness to adopt a forward-thinking mindset to make smart decisions on promotions, identify and meet changes in demand, optimize assortment, and invest in innovative fresh-centric technologies.
Promotion Planning to Combat Soaring Prices
The report reveals that fresh produce sales reached $71B in 2021, reflecting a 3.3% increase in dollars. However, gains were inflation driven and volume sales were down 2.0%. With the price of produce being the key culprit in consumers walking away with empty or smaller baskets, global grocers are prioritizing promotions, optimizing assortment, and extending the shelf life of fresh items.
“Out of the surveyed consumers, 92% have made changes, led by focusing on sales promotions and shelf-life to waste less at home. The inflationary conditions are prompting significant focus on list-making and promotional activity, with 54% of shoppers frequently checking sales prices at the primary store and 27% across stores.” – Rick Stein, Vice President of Fresh Foods, FMI
Shoppers also point to more frequent rotation of new and seasonal items to grow consumption. As a result, grocers feel the pressure to create eye-catching promotional offerings and provide greater assortment to garner the attention of the 48% that like to be introduced to uncommon or seasonal varieties.
The desire for assortment in produce is an area where real improvement can be made. consumers note less variety, and more out-of-stocks in the current marketplace. If consumers come up empty-handed at their go-to store, 43% buy other items and 36% visit different stores entirely.
To make the right selection for special promotions and optimize assortment, grocers must eliminate guess work and leverage operations information to make smart, data-driven decisions.
This is where a Fresh Food Retail Platform comes into play. The intelligent forecast engines of fresh-centric solutions work as a single source of truth for decisioning and operations across all points of customer experience – demand, production, availability, and delivery.
Fresh intelligence forecasting uses augmented human intelligence with AI for the most accurate and predictive forecasting methodology to produce recommendations. This demand-driven approach to promotion planning and increasing assortment considers the data sets, historical behaviors, and shifts in consumer buying habits.
Forecast engines understand future demand and consider the unique elements of fresh movement from time sensitivity, short shelf-life, promotional and seasonal activity, and cannibalization can optimize processes to accelerate profits in fresh.
Fresh-to-Go Popularity is Staying Around
Convenience is king with an increase in engagement in to-go items – nearly half of shoppers frequently purchase value-added fruits and veggies from pre-cut and pre-washed options to grab-and-go and ready-to-serve solutions.
“This popularity among consumers led to value-added fruits and vegetables making up 14.4% of total fresh product sales in 2021. The share of shoppers expecting to purchase more value-added produce remains high at 27%, while only 5% anticipate they will purchase less.”
A Fresh Food Retail Platform provides demand data for each fresh transformation. For example, if a case of pineapples is transformed and sold as cut fruit, a Fresh Food Retail Platform considers the full yield and demand of pineapples for the entire produce department and translates that demand into how many cases of pineapples you need to order. The transformation information is consolidated in the system to drive efficient workflows resulting in labor savings.
Cost of goods especially with fresh item transformation is difficult to nail down leading to discrepancies that negatively impact margins. A Fresh Food Retail platform enables store-level tracking of fresh food costing. As a result, true costing data within the system allows entire franchises to ensure their margins are correct without having to compromise value-added sales.
What’s Really in that Sandwich? Consumers Crave Accurate Nutrition Information
One of the more positive outcomes of the pandemic is the increase in consumer focus on health and wellness. This trend has spiked throughout grocery in recent years causing consumers to take a second look at their foods.
“The one-third of consumers who pay a lot of attention to health and nutrition tend to see fresh produce as playing a central role in their diet. Fresh produce has an opportunity to rise above the overall health halo and highlight specific benefits. More consumers associate fresh produce with digestive health, weight management and disease management this year. Six in 10 shoppers purchase fruits and vegetables to deliver on specific health benefits. Consumers welcome more information about nutrition, health benefits, recommended daily amounts, and more”
There are vast opportunities to improve consumer confidence and trust in fresh foods through nutrition labels that offer accurate ingredient and allergen information.
With the right Fresh Food Retail Platform, grocers can help consumers make healthy, informed decisions with regulatory compliant nutrition fact panels, ingredient details, and allergen statements. Invafresh’s Nutrition Label Printing, for example, integrates with Esha Genesis to provide an extensive food and ingredient database.
Nutrition Labeling functionality allows grocers to achieve one source of truth for nutrition labeling and 100% labeling accuracy. It facilitates easy creation of fresh food labels with nutrition information that is 100% FDA and CFIA-compliant.
Transparency and Traceability to Build Consumer Trust
According to the report, 85% of Americans say they are confident in the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables bought in the store. However, 58% report they are only somewhat confident, indicating there may be opportunities to improve confidence.
“In the event of recalls, people like a combination of in-store and personal communications, led by notifications in store and emails. About two-thirds of shoppers are interested in fresh produce food safety tips, led by safe and proper storage advice.”
Many grocers are investing in sophisticated food traceability software to ensure USDA compliancy and the ability to track, trace and monitor fresh food movement from point of origin and transformation to retail. This not only reduces the time to pull inventory in the event of a recall, but the real-time data helps to increase the quality of your products while meeting regulatory requirements.
- Efficient track and trace of all fresh food items including ingredients used in recipes to recover faster from disruptions and food recalls.
- Provides a clear path of source and destination of product to ensure all products meet regulatory compliance.
- Product recall reports work to centralize food traceability information and streamline the food recall process ensuring an efficient and safe recall.
- Robust fresh food traceability capabilities identify problems faster therefore reducing recalls at retail, reducing liability in case of food safety issues, reducing publicity in case of food safety issues, and protecting public health.
Extend Shelf Life to Keep Fresh, Fresher
The report also reveals that consumers are focusing on items with prolonged shelf-life, to get the most out of their dollars which means grocers must ensure maximum freshness in their produce.
Fresh-centric ordering capabilities of a Fresh Food Retail Platform, helps to automate just-in-time replenishment for store backrooms based on perpetual inventory, merchandising requirements, and forecasts, to generate accurate order amounts for future inbound deliveries. This leads to 50% reduction in replenishment time, 25% reduction in backroom inventory, and 25% reduction in shrink.
56% of consumers also want their produce department to carry more locally grown fruits and vegetables. Invafresh’s Fresh Ordering enables retailers to maintain supplier information and order from any supplier, local supplier, and warehouse.
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The 2022 Power of Produce was conducted by 210 Analytics and made possible by the Southeast Produce Council (SEPC), Invafresh and Yerecic Label. The report was presented at SEPC’s 2022 Southern Exposure conference.