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Insights from the Power of Produce

ORLANDO, FL — One of the highlights of education sessions offered at the Southeast Produce Council’s BB #:191194 Southern Exposure is the presentation of the annual Power of Produce study.

The Food Industry Association’s annual research, presented by Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics on April 7, looks at how produce performed from multiple angles including sales data and consumer surveys.

SEPC brings color to the report with a panel of retailers to talk about how these trends played out in their stores.

A few key insights from the panel, which included Mike Roberts, director of produce operations for Harp’s BB #:167774; Gary Baker, senior director of fresh at Merchants Distributors LLC BB #:108689; and Price Mabry, director of Produce and Floral at HAC Inc. BB #:169070; offered a look into the coming months as consumer shopping habits evolve amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, shopping days changed. Are we back to weekends being key shopping times?

“We’re just now starting to see our Sundays be our No. 1 day again,” Mabry said.

Roerink said one change in shopper behavior that appears to have staying power is pre-holiday trips.

“One of the biggest changes I’m still seeing is the very different shopping patterns surrounding holidays,” she said.

“Typically, the week before the holiday has always been the biggest one, especially if you think about the Thanksgiving turkey. What we’re actually seeing now is that the week before the holiday week is the big one because people are trying to spread out the purchases, and not be in the store with the lines.”

Are ad and impulse sales returning?

Fresh produce sold on merchandising (ad) was down more than 27 percent in vegetables and nearly 18 percent on fruit, as many retailers pulled ads.

Harps went five months without a circular, Roberts said. Customers didn’t need them as they were in and out of the store in 30 minutes, with a list and little time spent browsing ad items.

“When we got back into it, writing ads, we were doing more with BOGO sales, doing more with one-day or 3-day sales trying to engage the consumer more,” Roberts said.

“We do think people are going to be looking to save money this year, so I think finding new ways on the back side of the pandemic to engage the consumer is the trend that we’re looking at.”

Cooking at home: here to stay?

While many states are opening back up, many consumers are still eating at home, with an estimated 20 percent not expected to return to restaurants until this summer at the earliest.

“I still think that there’s going to be folks that enjoy cooking now and can save that dollar, saying we can do this at home now,” Baker said. “I think there’s a category that will still grow from where it was based.”

Pamela Riemenschneider is Retail Editor for Blue Book Services