Today’s most successful produce departments do much more than sell berries, bananas and lettuce. They’re selling a highly desirable lifestyle that celebrates health, flavor and freshness.
According to the latest IRI data, growth in the fresh perimeter is slowing. With $60 billion in sales, produce still represents the lion’s share in fresh. However, while vegetables saw a modest lift in sales this past year, fruit was down. Can the produce industry reignite the accelerated growth that defined the early part of the decade? WGB asked four major players in fresh produce: What do you see as the most important produce trend that will drive sales growth in 2020?
Health on the Horizon
As consumers become savvier about health, wellness and eating for longevity, Limoneira in Santa Paula, Calif., sees the produce department playing a central role in showcasing the health and nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Through dietitian-created recipes, in-store signage, geotargeted social media marketing, in-store videos with local influencers and point-of-sale materials, Limoneira is helping grocers to drive sales of fresh lemons.
“Fruits such as Limoneira lemons and citrus have a significant positive impact on health,” says Alex Teague, chief operating officer of Limoneira. “The growth of the food as medicine movement continues to gain momentum.”
Flavor Drives Loyalty
If Paul Mastronardi, president and CEO of Mastronardi Produce/Sunset, could describe 2020’s top produce trend in one word, it would be “flavor.”
“Outstanding flavor equals repeat sales, and consumers are seeking unique, high-flavor items more than ever,” says Mastronardi. “Flavor reigns, and I’m confident that consumers will continue to seek out the innovative, high-flavor offerings that have changed the game in fresh produce.”
Mastronardi Produce of Kingsville, Ontario, has been focused on colorful and flavorful product introductions, such as Sunset Aloha Peppers, Sunset Flavor Bombs and Sugar Bombs.
Transparency and Trust
As fresh produce continues its evolution from commodity products to brands with fans, Kevin Payne, VP of marketing for Zest Labs, San Jose, Calif., sees trust and transparency taking center stage.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of brands and types of packaging in the produce department as many leading suppliers try to differentiate themselves from commodities based on freshness, convenience, nutrition and authenticity,” Payne says. “Consumers also increasingly value transparency. They want to know and trust the supplier regarding where the produce came from and that it’s been properly handled.”
Freshness management and traceability solutions are key to brand building and traffic, Payne says. “Ultimately, this also benefits grocers who build customer loyalty by consistently offering fresher and more consistent produce,” he says.
For the Dole Food Co. Inc., based in Westlake Village, Calif., the rise of the plant-based healthy lifestyle trend is where sales gains lie in the year ahead.
“We see a dramatic increase in sustainable eating trends—not just dieting for weight loss, but more focus on plant-based eating for health, be it vegetarian, flexitarian or vegan,” says William Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Dole. “Moving forward, produce companies like Dole can help respond with new plant-based products, recipes and initiatives.”
Earlier this year, Dole launched a line of plant-based, ready-to-eat salad kits. “Key to the kits’ early success has been a denser combination of plant-based protein that results in a more satiating salad that eats like a meal,” Goldfield says.