- In a recent survey, more than half of produce buyers said that price remained a top barrier to purchasing fruits and vegetables, according to a release from survey leads Category Partners and Beacon Research Solutions. The survey, taken by 4,000 shoppers in June, also found “poor appearance/quality/color” and “spoiling/inability to eat it all” to be barriers, as well.
- The firms found that most produce shoppers make their purchasing decisions in-store, and that traditional marketing materials like ad circulars, cookbooks and recipe cards were more effective at driving category sales than nontraditional channels like social media.
- Thirty-one percent of consumers surveyed said values like locally grown, natural, organic and non-GMO weren’t top of mind for them. Flavor, the survey revealed, is almost as important as health in driving purchase.
Despite recent sales growth and the all-important fresh appeal produce adds to grocery stores, the department isn’t moving as much product as it should. Turned off by high prices, wary of imperfect fruits and vegetables, and unclear on how to select and prepare items, many shoppers take in the colorful displays without buying anything — or bypass the section altogether.
Still, producers managers can get more mileage out of promotions than they may realize, according to the study. Price drops on in-demand products, for instance, can spur purchases and simultaneously improve the department’s overall price image. Convincing consumers to try certain fruits and vegetables could also encourage them to be more adventurous in the section.
Fact is, many consumers love the sights and smells of the produce department — but they don’t know how to select a plum or a nectarine, how to slice up butternut squash or how to incorporate eggplant into a recipe. The survey’s most important insight may be that retailers have ample opportunity for shopper education. What’s stopping managers from putting up a sign showing how to select certain types of produce? Why not stack recipe cards in the aisle? Considering the importance flavor plays in driving purchases, why not have a sampling station with a rotating selection of fruits and veggies going at all times?
Retailers have brought creativity to the fresh department in recent years. They’ve mixed in more value-added produce like pre-cut vegetables, which often saves consumers prep work and makes items more approachable. Companies have also begun promoting imperfect or “misfit” produce, which is a much-needed step that should reduce shrink and food waste. Some markets even staff produce butchers as a way of adding a bit of theater and convenience to their produce departments.
Grocers know there are purchase barriers to produce, just like any other section, and they’ll continue to work on these issues as demand for everything “fresh” continues to build. At the same time, managers need to make sure the focus is on the product, and that they don’t let too many signs, packages, stations and staffers get in the way.