Produce Aisle Predictions

By Ms. Anna Saffer, Director Of New Product Development, Dunnhumby USA

Consumers want to understand as much as they can about what is going into the products they purchase. While this isn’t a new trend — in fact, recent reports show the concern is relatively widespread in most markets — the desire for consumers to know the origin of their food and the process it goes through on the way to the store or restaurant remains a growing interest. Data leads us to believe that an “open door policy” with food will continue to be a relevant topic for consumers.

With packaged goods, consumers can easily look to nutrition and ingredient labels to clearly and thoroughly understand what is going into the products they buy. For produce it can be a little more complicated as the products often do not come with a tell-all label. Transparency is key with produce. This practice really boils down to not just ensuring the customers feel confident that they’re purchasing responsibly produced food, but rather that they feel the brand is making an effort to try and explain the what, where and how of produce.

In dunnhumby’s annual Food Trend Report, we developed a unique methodology — taking the best of food and culinary trends uncovered through research, online recipes, restaurant menus, industry journals, the news, purchasing behavior, and talking to consumers — and applied a rigorous model to truly understand and predict the big trends of 2015. We wanted a rich historical view and examined up to 5 years of actual purchase data on each of the trends identified. By understanding past performance and current performance, we could better predict the future of the trend.

Our first step was to build a bank of more than 150 food and culinary-related product trends. The trends we looked at stretched wide — from diet specific, such as Paleo; to packaging, such as pouches; from products, like leben (or Israeli-style yogurt); to product claims, such as “free range.”

Once we had a robust list of trends, we wanted to understand the factors that could impact them. We looked at hundreds of variables that were driving growth and could predict future growth. Specifically, we looked at metrics across key driver areas such as Trend Acceptance, Shopper DNA, Proliferation and Digital Footprint.

All this data helped us obtain a good view and identify the trend drivers. By looking at what consumers are actually buying, we were able to reveal changes in behavior.

Based on our analysis, we identified the big trends we expect to continue to stay on top of consumers’ minds and affect their shopping list in 2015. These trends are Natural Sweeteners, Responsibly Produced, Fermented Foods, Small Batch Goods and Religious Standards. Overwhelmingly most consumers (nearly 80 percent) believed they would engage with these specific trends going forward.

One key theme that emerged was that produce consumers are more interested in supporting the little guy, or in this case local farmers. Some consumers even told us supporting local farmers gave them a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time when people were closer to the production of the food they consume. Many shoppers also equated ‘locally grown’ with the perception of higher quality and/or fresher products.

Consumers value how their products are cultivated in advance of arriving on the grocery shelves. In our Food Trends research, consumers shared sentiments like “It is important to me how my food is raised,” and “Treatment, feed, and conditions are important.” In addition to valuing the treatment of the food they’ll be consuming, shoppers want that to be translated clearly on the product packaging. Unclear labels are a prevalent frustration amongst many consumers; one customer articulated it as, “I would not buy any of the above-mentioned products unless it also said ‘organic.’ Otherwise, all those labels you are stating are meaningless.”

By purchasing sustainable grown foods, consumers felt they were doing something better not just for themselves and their families by monitoring and understanding what they put into the body, but they felt like this benefited the larger environment as well.

While price still remains important to consumers, we have seen a willingness to up-trade for higher quality products. One consumer stated it as “Price is still a factor in my choice, but if I find these products [organic, natural, etc.] at prices that are not totally out of line with traditional grocery prices, then I will buy.”

Consumers are placing a new, and significant, value on these claims of the what, where and how produce is grown and making purchasing decisions to reflect these themes.

The most important area for consumers remains not just what’s trending, but whether they should care about the trend. We believe by grounding innovation in the core values of the brand, consumers can help ensure brands and producers are focusing on the trends that are right for their brand specifically.