Summer months usher in fresh fruit and vegetable nostalgia for consumers, driving retail sales as seasonal produce becomes more accessible.
As much as the produce industry has been able to develop a 365 supply, sourcing from countries and regions around the globe, U.S. consumers wait all year to drip peach down their chins, spit watermelon seeds, and grill the bounty of local vegetables available during summer months.
This summer, however, feels a bit different.
Americans are facing substantial inflation at grocery stores. Over the past year, overall food prices increased by 8.5 percent. Consumers have been reacting to inflation by spending less and trading down from favorite food staples, a trend with no end in sight.
As the summer days get longer, brands and retailers risk compromising consumer loyalty to inflation pressures on consumers’ budgets.
Providing options for shoppers to continue to enjoy the season’s bounty while also helping them address the burdens that inflation has imposed on their households, exacerbated by having children home for all meal occasions throughout the summer, is a tall order.
Retailers have mostly benefited from consumers cooking at home, a habit hack brought on by the pandemic and a benefit leading into the summer months. Celebrating the flavors of the season will be crucial to keep consumers engaged and willing to invest in the summer experience of fresh produce consumption. But it doesn’t all start and end at the grill.
Here are three strategies for keeping consumers engaged and purchasing fresh produce this summer.
- Merchandising is public art. Concerns about inflation, coupled with supply-chain woes and staffing shortages, all impact how and where consumers shop. Not only does merchandising drive sales, merchandising is an art that speaks to the consumer on many different levels, attracting and retaining shoppers while supporting their mental health with a visual oasis.
Consider merchandising as a narrative, illustrating the short availability of many summer favorites. Draw on the nostalgia of summer, cross-promoting decades-old favorites paired to heighten interest and increase produce purchasing: watermelons, beach balls, and sunscreen.
Bring the full experience together from all departments across the store and make Andy Warhol as proud of your merchandising work as Norman Rockwell.
- Leverage the FOMO of the season. Discretionary spending on nonessentials like alcoholic beverages and premium products will be impacted this summer. With prices rising across virtually every good, use the fear of missing flavor to your advantage across the produce department.
Prompts such as Limited availability! Get it while you can! and Back for a limited time! will not only increase purchases but remind the consumer of the excitement of the season and the residual indignation for the recipes that did not come to fruition last year as the fall months moved in too soon.
Consumers love to grumble as Starbucks releases their PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) earlier and earlier each year. Show solidarity with consumers and let summer linger in the produce department as long as possible, providing opportunities to enjoy the season without fall regret.
- Show empathy. Not all consumers are experiencing the same level of financial discomfort. Many see inflation as an irritation, while others may be experiencing serious financial hardship and everything in between.
Understanding how your customers shop and being aware of the cues of their decision-making challenges will be key to providing solutions for every budget this summer. Promotions and displays that spotlight savings on produce will be key to attracting repeat customers.
Cross-promotional solutions that take the guesswork out of building meals for their families also will be welcomed warmly. With the stresses of household burdens on consumers, displaying items as total meal solutions and family-size solutions will show the consumer that you understand the seasonal challenges they are facing and are committed to making the produce choice the easy choice for their family.
Summer is arguably the most fun season of them all. With longer days and warmer nights, consumers do not want to be worried about putting three meals on the table each day for their families. They want to be at the park, pool, playground, and parades!
The more you can do to provide simple, affordable, and quick solutions for enjoying summer produce, the closer you’ll move to develop a loyal customer all season long.