Consumer trends, inflation and TikTok were just a few of the topics discussed Thursday at a packed general session panel of industry experts at the International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Global Produce & Floral Show in Orlando.
The event, which kicked off Thursday and runs through Saturday, is the first major industry gathering from the newly created IFPA.
During its general session, moderated by Patrick Vizzone, managing director and head of agri-food for Franklin Templeton, the panel discussed consumer trends at retail around produce purchases and beyond.
Consumers are seeking the convenience of prepared and pre-cut produce, said Tammy DeBoer, president of the Kroger Co. banner Harris Teeter.
“Grab and go is going to increase,” said Greg Robinson, associate client partner, consumer advisory for Korn Ferry.
Following the pandemic, DeBoer emphasized a consumer trend toward health and “food as medicine.”
Consumers are focused on quality and DeBoer said this trend will continue. “We are seeing consumers much more focused on health and wellness,” she told the audience.
In-store shopping is seeing a consumer uptick said, Philip Behn, a consumer expert from McKinsey & Company and former CEO of Imperfect Food.
Shoppers are returning to their supermarkets, which is “good news for traditional retailers,” Behn said.
The panel also discussed the popular trends found on TikTok, the short-form video-sharing app. The consensus from the panel? We can’t ignore it.
The TikTok trend shows that people are looking for new ways to grocers and that is an opportunity for retailers, DeBoer said. She should know. Her Charlotte, North Carolina, store faced a feta storage last year after a recipe calling for a block of the salty, white cheese went viral on the social media platform.
But even if social media provides enticements to try new things at the grocery store, it's hard to ignore economic realities, panelists said. Early in the pandemic, shoppers bought things they wanted as a form of entertainment. Now, grocery shopping is more focused on need, they said.
As consumers navigate rising food prices, “inflation will not be gone soon,” Aaron Goertzen, senior economist and director of economic research at BMO Capital Markets, said.
With inflation there will be tradeoffs, DeBoer said, as consumers are choosing private labels over national brands.
As for the future, grocers will need to “meet the customer where they are,” DeBoer said. “What we’re going to have to continue to focus on is the experience, wherever the customer may be.”
Following the panel discussion winners of the Retail Produce Manager Award were recognized.