Increasing sales of fruits and vegetables is an ongoing mission of the fresh produce industry, retailers, restaurateurs, and, well, anyone who sells food. The reason is, when consumers add fruits and vegetables to their baskets, their total basket ring is higher.
Produce is still considered a luxury item by many, therefore bringing up in-store and online baskets’ value (and cost). Subsequently, when consumers are looking for the most bang for their buck, a 5-pound bag of carrots never comes to mind. Instead, shelf-stable pantry staples are top of their list, so the saga continues.
As we begin to accept that the changes to our way of life presented by the pandemic may be permanent, we also accept the many reverberations of change impacting our health, economics, and overall well-being.
When we first locked down in 2020, we discovered new and unexpected energy toward food. From our sourdough mothers to Tik Tok baked feta, culinary creativity seeped into kitchens around the globe. Soon after that, a resurgence of personal self-care rose as our top priority due to all the sourdough we ate?
Consumers sought guidance from social media once again and have adopted quick-fix solutions to meet their daily intake of vitamins and minerals they know will build their immune defenses in preparation for the following COVID variant. So why has this awakening not resulted in an embrace of fruits and vegetables, leading to increased sales?
In some cases, it has. As Category Partners reports, organic produce sales again saw a 5.5 percent increase year-over-year in 2021, totaling $9B in sales, a record high for organic produce sales. International Fresh Produce Association’s reporting from 210 Analytics states that although 2021 fresh produce sales surpassed 2020 in dollars, the volume could not hold the line. This year’s culprit may no longer be the pandemic but rather the inflation that now pinches the purses of even the most comfortable consumers.
While consumers are more aware of the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, they also are more tired in general. How can we stay ahead of consumption trends and grow produce sales despite the headwinds of 2022?
Three factors are currently driving consumers’ food choices. First, convenience remains critical. While there is still an adage that people should eat three square meals a day, the great resignation and work from home culture have introduced a more relaxed eating style. Grazing and snacking behaviors are more common.
Consumers’ products on hand need to be quick, easy, and ready to eat. Recipes, which remain a vital tool in engaging consumers, can benefit from returning to the basics.
Although many gourmet chefs were born from the pandemic, even more consumers search for quick tips and tricks – or produce 101 guidance – to handle, prepare, and enjoy fruits and vegetables.
Next, we need to marry the ease of enjoyment with the function of food. Our meals are no longer about what’s not in our food: gluten, GMOs, ‘healthy’ fats, but rather what is in our food: probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
The function of our food has become a top priority as we seek to bolster our immune systems and repair underlying health conditions through food as medicine. Spotlighting the health benefits of each produce item and its unique traits will provide consumers with a new level of understanding and lead to greater adoption within their diet.
Last, food must taste good! Recently, Pam Smith, RDN, shared a comparison, bringing to light how much opportunity there is to amplify produce flavors. Americans know how to season a steak, or other protein, adding salt and pepper at least, or bring it to the next level with marinates, smoking techniques, and more.
But when it comes to broccoli, we’re satisfied simply steaming and eating and telling ourselves we’re doing it in the name of health and wellness. Why not learn to season vegetables properly?
Consumers need to hear that they do not need to compromise flavor for the benefit of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
These three opportunities to further engage, enlighten and entice consumers to eat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables will ensure the produce industry stays ahead of consumption this year and aid in the increased sales.