Fresh Enthusiasts Versus Elusives

By Kelli Beckel, Senior Marketing Manager, Nielsen Perishables Group

Women with children are undoubtedly a large and high-spending consumer group. They are often the shoppers the produce industry targets when creating marketing strategies and new products. But are these consumers truly the ones who spend their time and dollars in the produce department, or are we missing an opportunity to reach a more lucrative shopper?

Nielsen Perishables Group analyzed transaction data from FreshFacts  Shopper Insights powered by Spire to identify the core and opportunity shopper groups of fresh produce as well as the products that are most important to them. We examined consumers in the context of Spire’s 40 unique “Essence” segments, which were based on demographics and purchase history throughout the store. Within these 40 consumer segments, the top five and bottom five groups for fresh produce were determined based on their shares of fresh sales compared to total store sales.

If the consumer groups account for a greater share of fresh food sales versus their total store sales, and they are a significantly sized group (high group spending power), they were designated in the Fresh Enthusiast consumer group. The same methodology was applied to determine a Fresh Elusive group, where their share of fresh sales was lower than their share of total store sales.

Fresh Enthusiasts

The Fresh Enthusiast group tends to be affluent, health-minded, food-focused, and are more likely to be couples than families. They account for 23 percent of total store sales, but 27 percent of fresh sales, or over $25 billion in fresh food sales, annually.

Four of the five consumer segments included in the Fresh Enthusiast group are couples.  Premium Healthy Living Families are also in this group, but this segment is limited to households with incomes greater than $100,000.

Among the Top 10 highest indexing fresh categories for the Fresh Enthusiast group, six are produce categories.

Highest Indexing Fresh Categories for the Fresh Enthusiast Group

• Specialty cheese

• Berries

• Packaged salad

• Cooking vegetables

• Tomatoes

• Finfish

• Citrus

• Apples

• Shrimp

• Breads

This group translates to huge spending power in produce. The Fresh Enthusiast group accounts for approximately 37 percent of berry category sales, which equates to over $1.2 billion at retail each year.

Fresh Elusives

The opportunity in fresh lies with consumers who are more convenience-minded, time-strapped, less willing to cook, and are more likely to be families than couples or singles. This is the primary consumer for many retailers and suppliers, but this group accounts for a somewhat smaller share of sales not only in the fresh departments but also across the entire grocery store (21 percent for Fresh Elusives versus 23 percent for Fresh Enthusiasts).

The Fresh Elusive group benefits the store most by over-spending on convenience meat, but produce does not fall anywhere in their Top 10 indexing categories. In fact, five of their Top 10 lowest indexing categories are from the produce department: berries, cooking vegetables, packaged salad, tomatoes, and citrus:

• Packaged meals

• Fully cooked chicken

• Meat franks

• Processed lunch meat

• Cakes

• Deli pizza

• Fully cooked beef

• Breakfast sausage

• Fully cooked other meat

• Other miscellaneous meat items

A packaged salad is among Fresh Elusives’ lowest indexing fresh categories. The group accounts for 17 percent of packaged salad sales, compared to Fresh Enthusiasts’ 33 percent contribution. Intuitively, packaged salads should be a category that appeals to on-the-go families due to its convenience factor. If the industry can draw these busy families to packaged salads enough to raise their sales contribution from 17 percent to 21 percent (their share of total store sales), that would mean nearly $500 million in additional retail sales.

As the make-up of American households continues to evolve, so must the produce industry’s understanding of whom should be considered when strategizing innovation, assortment, packaging, and marketing.

Nielsen Perishables Group consults with clients in the fresh food space. Based in Chicago, IL, the company specializes in consumer research, advanced analytics, marketing communications, category development, supply chain management, promotional best practices and shopper insights. For more information, please visit