Fresh Produce and Variety Can Drive Store Traffic and Build Loyalty

A new study by The NPD Group, shows 58 percent of primary household shoppers report that liking a store’s produce is one of the reasons they regularly shop at a particular store. Having consistently fresh produce and a wide selection is of great importance to getting these consumers to walk into the store. Furthermore, the emphasis on produce grows as we age. When looking at consumers 65 and over, liking a store’s produce as the main reason for loyalty rises to 62 percent among primary shoppers.

This research, an example of the Shopper Insights available from NPD’s National Eating Trends service, which has tracked the daily eating habits of Americans based on their personal food diaries since 1980, also reveals some channels are doing much better at attracting these consumers than others. For instance, a greater percentage of shoppers who are more loyal to conventional supermarkets/grocery stores say they like the produce at those stores more than shoppers of natural/gourmet stores who specialize in organic produce. At first, it seems counterintuitive, but peeling back the layers of the onion shows that the natural channel is best at attracting people who are looking for unique items as well as organic food and beverages. However, this channel also pulls in produce-minded consumers who may be loyal to other food channels, but are willing to shop around for produce. This still emphasizes the importance of produce to the natural channel but also highlights opportunities for other channels to increase their basket sizes with produce offerings.

In addition to the retail environment, it’s important to look at produce in the full context of eating since vegetables are often served as a side dish, particularly at dinner. Produce marketers and retailers should consider either cross-marketing or placement strategies that more closely align with consumers’ dinner plates. For example, when looking at all dinners containing a vegetable side dish, chicken, beef, and pork are the top center-of-plate dishes served in those instances. According to NPD’s National Eating Trends, sandwiches and burgers are also top main dishes at dinnertime; however, they are less likely to be consumed with vegetables.

There has also been much concern recently surrounding the eating habits of children and how this might be contributing to obesity. A recent study conducted by the University of North Carolina showed that kids are snacking on about 586 calories per day, which is up from 418 in 1977. While it is true that kids often snack on sweets and savory items, the silver lining is that parents seem to be taking charge of their children’s snacking habits. Over the last 10 years, fruit has grown to become the top snack food for kids, particularly kids between the ages of six and 12. This hints at opportunities for retailers to adjust their fruit sections to accommodate snack-minded consumers.

As we move into the next 10 to 20 years, producers and retailers alike must take into account the aging Boomer population. Making up roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population, this generation will see kids leaving the home and parents entering retirement years — or at least planning to retire. Fruit and vegetable consumption tends to increase as consumers age, in many ways related to NPD’s National Eating Trends reports the average older Boomer consumed fruit 173 times in 2009, while those same consumers averaged only 118 times in 1999. The same goes for vegetables. Now, older Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1955, consume vegetables about 175 times per year, but in 1999, their frequency was 149 times.

The findings from NPD’s National Eating Trends and its Shopper Insights data show that the quality and freshness of produce drive store traffic and builds retailer loyalty. Understanding the life stages of consumers and their mindset about produce will help increase store traffic, loyalty and dollars.