Shoppers seek freshness, quality first in produce

June 9, 2015

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has released its inaugural report, “The Power of Produce 2015,” which explores changes in shoppers’ produce purchasing trends and behaviors at retail. The new study identifies the biggest trends in consumer purchasing and consumption of fruit and vegetables from planning the purchase, channel choice and preparation, all the way through recommendations to improve shopping the produce department.

Unlike other fresh areas, price is secondary to freshness and quality in the produce purchasing decision tree. This underscores the importance of value versus just low prices even if six in 10 shoppers compare item prices of fruit and vegetables when in-store. Shoppers indicate that the best shopping experience often boils down to operational excellence as they emphasize the need for clearly-marked prices, in-stock performance, and variety—both across items and in-item variety with six in 10 shoppers encouraging their stores to increase the number of items grown in the United States or locally, and four in 10 looking for more nonGMO and organic items.

While supermarkets maintain their stronghold as the primary source for fresh fruits and vegetables, many other channels are vying for the produce dollar—some quite successfully. Fifty percent of consumers have purchased produce at a farmer’s market in the past three months, in addition to 22% at a produce stand and 6% farm-direct. This makes these alternative channels important emerging competitors for the produce dollar, particularly because 66% of farmers' market shoppers say they specifically went there to purchase produce.

Dinner remains the biggest opportunity for vegetables. Snacks and breakfast are the biggest occasions for fruit, with interesting growth potential in juicing and snacking for both segments. Other mega food trends are also affecting produce purchases. Grown in the United States and grown locally are powerful trends, even if shoppers do not have one specific definition of what constitutes local produce. In a direct comparison, local wins out in a fruit purchasing scenario where conventional, local, and organic are all equally priced. Additionally, local remains the most popular choice even when a price premium is tacked on for local and organic compared with conventional. However, even at a price premium, organic produce’s popularity is soaring, albeit with a smaller segment of the population, at 52%. The organic segment continues to be skewed towards higher-income shoppers, and having children continues to be an important point of entry.

Press release