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Fresh Food

9 Consumer Trends Affecting Produce Sales

PMA’s Cathy Burns talks top trends at Fresh Summit
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Photograph by WGB Staff

“How do we as an industry be of profound use to consumers?” Cathy Burns, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), asked attendees at the recent Fresh Summit Conference & Expo in Anaheim, Calif.

For grocers, understanding today’s consumers and how they shop is key. In her "Forum for the Future—State of the Industry" address, Burns outlined nine consumer trends affecting produce sales.

Urbanization and Personalization. The country is experiencing rapid urbanization, with the population in U.S. cities expected to grow 25% by 2030. Catering to the needs of urbanites and knowing how they shop and what they buy will be increasingly important to the bottom line of every retailer.

Online Shopping. Analysts predict the online grocery market will more than double from $150 billion in 2017 to $334 billion in 2022. Consumers already spend up to 40% of their grocery budget online, said Burns.

Artificial Intelligence. Some 55% of retailers plan to leverage artificial intelligence to reduce friction in the shopping experience.

Flower Power. While Americans have an appreciation for plants and flowers, floral sales in the U.S. are not nearly as strong as they are in Europe. Floral represents a major opportunity for increasing produce sales overall.

CBD. The inclusion of cannabidiol, or CBD, in food and beverage is exploding, with Nielsen predicting it will soon be a $6 billion industry. “How will it play out in produce?” asked Burns. Given the surge in CBD product introductions, it’s a question that demands an immediate response.

Organic. Today’s increasingly sustainably minded consumer seeks organic options, and they are willing to pay more for them. Organic fruits and vegetables represent 14% of total produce sales or $17 billion.

Plant-Based. The momentum of plant-based foods continues, said Burns, pointing to major CPG players such as Perdue and Hormel, who are also getting into the game. “Everyone wants to be part of our health halo,” she said. Plant-based foods are expected to reach $85 billion in sales by 2030.

Emotional Connections. While produce enjoys a halo of health, the good-for-you factor alone doesn’t drive sales. The industry needs to make an emotional connection with the consumer, Burns urged. “Consumers are looking for brands that align with their values,” she said. They are demanding that companies make decisions that better the world.

Social Media. The sweet spot for produce marketing is “healthy for us and the planet,” Burns said. And Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube are the channels through which to convey this message. Videos are especially important, added Burns, who further noted that video content dominates social and digital platforms and is easier for consumers to recall than written messages.

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