To drive innovation in the marketplace and its stores, The Fresh Market has tapped New York City-based 25madison, a venture studio that builds and incubates companies from the ground up. The team has begun to identify trends in 2021, looking at early-stage consumer companies that are poised to disrupt or create market trends.
“We are excited to partner with The Fresh Market to help identify, build and invest in disruptive businesses,” said 25madison CEO Steven Price, in a statement. “By teaming up with The Fresh Market, we can create a competitive edge for our companies—leveraging unique consumer insights and distribution in 159 stores.”
As a specialty grocer, The Fresh Market’s strategic approach to product selection involves trend analysis and a vetting process that strives to get the highest-quality items on its shelves.
“Our mission is to inspire our guests to make everyday eating extraordinary, and to uphold this, we have extremely high standards for the products or brands that ultimately make it into our store,” said Dwight Richmond, director of center store merchandising, in a statement.
The Greensboro, N.C.-based grocer looks at what’s trending in restaurants, innovative cuisine, health and wellness movements, as well as farming practices, ingredient quality and traceability, said the retailer. Once the products or categories of interest are determined, merchandisers hold meetings to decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.
As 2019 comes to a close, The Fresh Market separately released predictions for the products that will drive customers through its doors in the year ahead. It sees many of the top trends coming from center store.
Sugar Smarts: Consumers are becoming more aware of how much sugar is added to foods, thanks to new food labeling requirements becoming mandatory in 2020. The new requirements include a callout for “added sugars” under the carbohydrates section, said the grocer. This includes natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and agave.
The keto, Whole30 and paleo diet trends, which also limit sugar intake, have further pushed consumers’ desire for products that taste great but also contain low or no added sugar and don't contain artificial sweeteners.
Seeds and Nuts: While nuts are well-established as good sources of protein and healthy fats, the grocer has seen a rise in seed-based products (quinoa, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, flax, sunflower and chia) this year. Not only are seeds allergen-free, but they are loaded with fiber, protein, antioxidants, essential minerals and fatty-acids, like omega-3.
Plant-Based 2.0: Guests have embraced plant-based meat alternatives and cauliflower pizza crusts, but now food manufacturers are taking it to the next level with plant-based alternatives that pump up the protein through legumes and vegetables, said the grocer.
Sober Celebrating: The rise in functional beverages has also extended to happy hour, with “sober-curious consumers choosing to celebrate sans alcohol,” said The Fresh Market. Brands such as H2OPS, a sparkling hop water brewed like a craft beer, and Napa Hills Vineyard Enriched Waters, which delivers the antioxidant benefits of a glass of red wine without the calories, sugar or alcohol, are gaining steam on the shelves of The Fresh Market.
Transparency and Traceability: “We are entering a phase where consumers want to understand the full life cycle of a food product, from where and how it was grown, why it is better nutritionally and better for the environment,” said Richmond.
He points to suppliers such as Epic Provisions, a company founded on regenerative agriculture, and its line of sustainably sourced 100% grass-fed meat bars, animal cooking fats and snacks. The Fresh Market, which went to all cage-free eggs in 2019, also increased its 100% grass-fed dairy offerings.
Complementing this trend is a focus on food waste reduction. The Fresh Market predicts the continued success of its fresh-prepared in-store Market Meal Kits, which contain portioned servings of easy-to-cook dinners, resulting in no food or ingredient waste.