The Power of Produce Part 1: Before They Shop

By Rick Stein, Vice President Of Fresh Foods, Food Marketing Institute

Food retailers spend tireless hours and millions of dollars on selecting the right items, at the right prices, for weekly circulars, Facebook promotions, and flash sales. For most, produce is front-and-center of these promotions. Why? Along with meat, produce is one of the most researched categories in preparation for food shopping — and importantly, a key driver of store loyalty among primary shoppers — as well as a prime way to attract shoppers of other channels and banners. Get produce right, and a store’s success is largely guaranteed.

While in-store execution is the ultimate step in “getting produce right,” the process starts long before shoppers enter the store. Eight in 10 shoppers typically create a list before heading to the store. This list may be on the back of an old envelope or compiled by using the store’s app on a smartphone, but for more than 90 percent of these shoppers, produce is a standard shopping list item. Simply put, seven in 10 shoppers walk into your store with a list containing produce.

Of those lists where produce is specified, 59 percent of the lists contain exact produce items (such as apples or broccoli), whereas roughly 34 percent of shoppers list the need for fruit and/or vegetables generically.

This leaves us with 20 percent of shoppers who don’t make lists and purely make produce-purchase decisions in-store. This scenario underscores the importance of clear communication of promotions and prices — since missing price information is one of the top shopper pet peeves in the produce department.

For many decades, the paper circular has been the top source for shoppers to browse sales promotions. This remains unchanged today, although shoppers now often alternate using the paper circular with other ad vehicles. More than seven in 10 shoppers review the paper circular at home — especially those shoppers who list exact items. Another 42 percent pick up a copy in-store.

These numbers are likely to change rapidly during the next few years as retailers shift ad dollar allocation, and more shoppers, especially Millennials, integrate mobile and online research to create their lists and add online grocery ordering to their shopping routines. Apps, in particular, are rising stars for pre-trip planning.

Connecting with shoppers pre-trip can help build the basket or even lead to increased spending for items across the store. Inspiration may include recipe ideas, ideation for juicing or snacking, a Sunday picnic, and other ways to use produce beyond the traditional meal occasions. Parents, in particular, welcome any such ideas in their efforts to ensure their children eat sufficient fruit and vegetables.

Shoppers not only review a variety of ad vehicles for produce promotions, they also compare promotions across different stores. No less than six in 10 compare prices frequently or even every time they shop for produce. Especially in areas such as the Northeast, with a ubiquity of conventional supermarkets, shoppers are in the habit of comparing produce promotions across stores. This means in a world with an increasingly scattered grocery landscape, no store is guaranteed the produce purchase, and ad planning along with in-store execution has to be right week after week.

In addition to a trip driver and well-researched category, produce generates its fair share of impulse sales too. Nearly six in 10 shoppers say they almost always (23 percent) or frequently (34 percent) purchase additional, unplanned produce items when in the store. Shoppers most susceptible to impulse produce purchases are Millennials (64 percent). Others likely to make unplanned produce purchase include shoppers with kids and higher-income households. On the other hand, shoppers aged 65-plus are twice as likely compared with Millennials to stick to their shopping lists.

Being both a planned category and having opportunity to drive impulse sales is quite unique. Through visibility, appealing displays and cross-merchandising, produce will not only be a great driver of traffic and sales, but also a great way to grow the basket.

Source: The Power of Produce 2015 — Shopper research by the Food Marketing Institute, made possible by Yerecic Label and implemented by 210 Analytics.

Food Marketing Institute is a trade association that advocates on behalf of the food retail industry. FMI’s U.S. members operate nearly 40,000 retail food stores and 25,000 pharmacies. Through programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations, FMI offers resources and provides valuable benefits to more than 1,225 food retail and wholesale member companies in the United States and around the world.