Younger consumers turn to fresh produce

Decades ago, “eat your vegetables” was an admonishment. Today, younger generations are enamored with vegetables in many forms.

“There’s a major dietary shift among younger consumers,” says Jacob Shafer, senior marketing and communications specialist at Mann Packing Company Inc. in Salinas, CA.

But just as pivotal is that younger buyers take a holistic approach to purchase, basing decisions on sustainability or ecological factors, as well as other personal values even when it comes to meals and snacking.

Fortunately, what’s good for the pocketbook and planet is also good for the body. Improving fitness and longevity crosses all age groups—and one of the simplest ways to achieve this goal is by eating right.

“Americans don’t eat enough produce in their everyday routine,” comments Robert Schueller, cookbook author and director of public relations for Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Inc. in Los Angeles.

“The major advantage to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables will always be one of personal health.”

Forty-one percent of consumers under 30 say they will pay more for healthier food products, and 63 percent emphasize the importance of finding detailed information on the health claims of the food they eat.

And while millennials may be perceived as more mindful of what they eat than their parents or grandparents—and some of this is born from a plethora of available choices—many also work nontraditional hours, skipping sit-down meals in favor of on-the-run snacks and value-added food items.

As a result, keeping fresh fruits and vegetables top of mind demands convenience and innovation in not just flavor but how items are prepared, packaged, and where they can be purchased.

This need for convenience has been driving sales in an ever-increasing range of retail venues outside supermarkets and warehouse clubs with convenience stores, drugstores, dollar stores, and even department stores adding produce or grab-and-go prepared food sections.

Alex Jackson Berkley of Frieda’s Specialty Produce Inc. in Los Alamitos, CA, is particularly excited about meal kits and substituting the more healthful carbohydrates of vegetables like sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and kohlrabi for pasta and bread.

“It’s a way for consumers to check off their vegetable-serving consumption for the day without having to think twice about it.”

Schueller agrees and advocates one-stop shopping by featuring wide varieties of produce in “meal concept” displays that offer complete packages and can be themed around seasonal, holiday, or other events.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.

Leonard Pierce is a freelancer with more than 20 years of experience in the food industry.