FMI analyst shares ways to grow produce sales

TUBAC, AZ – Fresh produce is such a mature category, it can be difficult to grow.

But there are ways, said Rick Stein, vice president, fresh foods, for Food Marketing Institute, BB #:162464 Arlington, VA, who was keynote speaker at the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas BB #:144354 annual meeting November 7.

The three ways he said are getting consumers to buy more produce than they do now, get them to spend more or get them to buy more often.

Buy more
“We need to get consumers out of their comfort zones,” Stein said.

One way is for marketers to encourage consumers to think of vegetables as a protein or carbohydrate part of the meal, such as veggie noodles or rice.

He said his research shows 73 percent of consumers serve plant-based meals at least sometimes, and that can rise with all the new products coming into the market.

Spend more
“Retailers can charge more because of perceived value,” Stein said.

Two big ways are organic and local. Organic produce purchases continue to grow, but not as much as previous years. He said retailers should continue to keep a price premium on organic, even as the price difference from growers shrinks.

On local, he said five years ago, consumers’ top reason for buying local produce was perceived freshness. Now the top reason is to help the local economy.

“We tell retailers to define local, say where the produce is from,” he said, as the definition of local varies widely among consumers.

Buy more often
People get stuck in their eating habits, especially eating occasions, so that’s one way to get more purchases. Both breakfast and snacking have room to grow he said.

Some of the opportunies to buy produce can eat into traditionally retail purchases, such as dollar stores, convenience stores, vending machines and airports. But those are positive signs for overall produce sales.

But retailers have a bigger incentive to offer robust produce offerings.

Stein said the produce department has taken over “low price” as the primary reason consumers choose a retailer.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services