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How retailers appeal to consumer value demands

ORLANDO, FL — Inflation is hitting consumers hard enough right now that price has risen to the top factor for them to purchase fresh produce, according to the latest Power of Produce report.

At the SEPC BB #:191194 Southern Exposure conference March 4, Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics along with Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for FMI, presented the latest data, and had help from three retailers to break down what it means for fresh produce.

“Entertaining and on-the-go will be back with the vengeance in 2022,” Roerink said. “Consumers say they want to eat more produce, and one way is better prices and promotions.”

That would help consumers, of course, but it’s not that easy to demand retailers simply drop prices — their costs are going up too.

A panel of retailers gave other ideas to help raise consumption.

Jerry Callahan, group vice president produce and floral for Albertsons Companies BB #:193326, said point-of-sale remains a great way to persuade consumers, and there are always ways to improve.

He said he’s talked with his company’s pharmacy about running promotions for produce there with the food-as-medicine theme.

Produce industry challenges are even outside the grocery store.

“We have to fight against fast food, and encourage healthy snacking,” Callahan said. “It has to be easy.”

Jim Hancock, vice president produce and floral for Sam’s Club BB #:140368, said produce companies have improved in snacking options and must keep it up.

Robby Cruz, vice president of produce/floral for Target BB #:166987, agreed that on-the-go is an area that fresh produce has to compete better at in 2022.

Stein said appearance and quality used to be the top attributes for fresh produce purchases before this era of inflation, so improved shelf-life is a way to bridge quality and value interests.

“My members don’t shop at our stores as often as others, so I need good shelf-life,” Hancock said.

Callahan said suppliers who can provide strong shelf-life, high quality and consistency, earn the right to sell in Albertson’s stores.

Cruz said those same standards apply to companies introducing new varieties or products.

“New varieties are great, but they have to have consistent eating experiences,” he said.

Roerink said farmers markets didn’t do as well in 2021 with many restrictions, but they should be back and more viable as a competitor in 2022.

“Retail can equal or better farmers markets attributes,” she said.

Hancock said retailers need to remember that consumers won’t replace a grocery trip with the farmers market, so they must beat them on price, variety and quality.

“You can’t get fresh-cut at the farmers market,” Callahan said.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services