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Kroger Reveals Ugly Produce Program, 'Mega Trends' at Food Forward Event

Program will hit shelves in early 2019
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Kroger Co.’s senior innovation manager of our brands, Nicole Davis, shared the top six “mega trends” the retailer has observed through its proprietary research and divulged details on its upcoming ugly produce program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Food Forward event.

According to Davis, this year's mega trends are: simple and real foods; “globetrotting tastes”; plant-based foods; digestive health; zero waste; and value-based shopping.

In step with the zero waste trend, Kroger revealed that it is creating a new brand called Peculiar Picks that will help fight the 6 billion pounds of fresh produce that get discarded each year by selling items that would normally be deemed unfit to sell for cosmetic reasons.

“When produce comes in or is grown and comes off the farm, if it doesn’t meet a specific spec or color or shape or size, it gets rejected,” Davis said. “That’s the ugly truth. But if 6 billion pounds of produce falls into the things that are too tiny or too bumpy or has freckles on the outside but still tastes delicious and are perfectly food safe, why can’t we use some of that to feed people? Which is our ultimate goal.”

The ugly produce brand is expected to hit shelves in early 2019 and according to the mockup revealed at the event may even be presented in branded packaging, which differs from most retailers’ ugly produce programs that sell the items out of bins.

The ugly produce program is not the only concept Kroger is experimenting with this year: The retailer recently partnered with Drinks to deliver wine through wine.kroger.com in a soft launch in limited markets with the intention to expand; brought its recently acquired Home Chef meal kit offerings in-store; and is testing out a sales partnership with Walgreens

Additionally, Davis said Kroger is working on cleaning up the labels across all of its brands to meet consumer desire in that department.

Davis shared that younger generations and millennials are traveling internationally twice as much as their predecessors, which “gives them insights into new flavors, new foods and they want to be able to make these things at home.” In fact, according to Davis, 40% of millennials say they prepare a dish from another culture at least once a week.

Kroger research shows that the rise of flexitarians, which Davis characterizes as someone who is not a vegan or vegetarian but looks for ways to cut down on meat consumption such as participating in Meatless Monday, is influencing the growth of plant-based foods. Davis added that 1 in 3 people claim to be flexitarians compared to only 1% of the population who claim to be vegan or vegetarian.

Gut health has also been a major concern for shoppers, and Davis shared that this has impacted the growing demand for probiotic items such as apple cider vinegar and kefir. She noted that a staggering 83% of adults experience gastrointestinal problems and 32% agree probiotics are essential. As such, Davis affirmed that these shoppers are turning to food as a way to cure these ailments so as not to have to take a daily supplement.

Finally, Davis said value-based shopping is of growing importance, and a recent Harris poll found 67% of millennials would prefer to buy a private label item from a company they trust.

“Customers are really taking time to do their research and understand the company that they’re spending money with,” she said. “They want to look for a company that shares the same values, the same goals and the same lifestyle that they do. They want to put their money where they trust.”

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