January 11, 2018

New Year, New You: Produce Consumption Resolutions Call for Increased Commitment to Food Safety

Written by Ed Wogan

As consumers resolve to eat healthier, temperature monitoring and digital food safety become even more critical.

We all experience it around the holidays—increased food consumption, neglected workouts, an abundance of family get-togethers, and overbearing career commitments. That little “Come on, it’s the holidays, live a little” mindset has most of us looking at the calendar and resolving to eat healthier for the New Year.

That resolution increasingly leads more consumers to seek out the freshest and healthiest produce. Since produce can spoil when stored outside of optimal conditions, it’s critical that fresh produce is stored properly and monitored while at the store. No one wants to resolve to better their health just to end up sick from improperly stored food.

The Current State of Produce Consumption

According to a Food Marketing Institute (FMI) survey conducted in 2017, produce in the supermarket environment is the second largest fresh department, representing 33 percent of total fresh product sales and accounting for a whopping $63 billion!

For retailers, produce is a basket builder and continues to grow, outpacing total store dollar sales growth by 3.4 percent and volume growth by 2.2 percent. Produce has an amazing 99.7 percent household penetration, so even those vehemently opposed to consuming any are most likely individuals with opportunity for increased consumption.

Produce shoppers are often creatures of habit, but the FMI survey shows insights into consumer’s willingness to expand their horizons. Of the respondents, 17 percent buy the same thing each week and don’t like to try anything new, 33 percent buy the same thing but are open to trying something new, and 50 percent say they have favorite products they regularly buy, but are still on the lookout for new things to try.

Consumer desire to increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is nothing new—as January 1 comes around each year, the surge for the “new year, new me” body and lifestyle skyrocket. While Baby Boomers out-consume Millennials in the area of fresh produce, both segments are looking for ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their regular meal planning for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Retailers are looking to capture increased and impulse purchase behavior by merchandising produce closer to the point of consumption. Think bananas in the cereal aisle, fresh vegetable options cross-merchandised in the meat and seafood case, expanded fresh fruit and salad bar offerings, and impulse displays at the front of store. Increasing the availability of these items throughout the store helps seal the deal for consumers already in the mindset of boosting their fresh produce consumption.

Other non-grocery venue retailers are getting into the fresh foods game. The variety and quality of the offerings in the convenience vertical have been greatly enhanced with quality grab-and-go options, such as freshly prepared fruits and salads at drug stores, dollar stores, and quick-service restaurants.

How Fresh Do Consumers Want Their Produce?

Consumers are thinking about produce consumption along the path to purchase, with 74 percent of shoppers planning pre-trip. Although produce is considered a supermarket stronghold, Millennial consumers purchase produce from other channels as well, such as at farmers markets, roadside stands, online ordering services, organic stores, ethnic markets, and via meal delivery kits.

Consumers are paying attention to the details around where their produce is sourced from, especially whether items are classified as local or organic. Local offerings are appealing to many since they support the local economy, offer the consumer some familiarity with the source, have a smaller environmental impact, are often unique to the region, and offer a higher probability of increased freshness. Organic offerings and consumption are one of the key segment drivers, as they now represent 8 percent of all fresh produce dollars and 30 percent of all produce growth. Consumers are committed, with 62 percent saying they have purchased organics in the last six months and many predicting they will buy more organics in the future.

Many retailers are developing outreach programs focusing on food safety designed to work with farmers, ultimately ensuring a protocol that ensures quality from farm to table. The FMI has a resource for produce food safety that specifically addresses safe produce handling consistently throughout the supply chain and in store, so this will remain critical—especially as consumption grows.

Increased Demand Calls for Increased Food Safety

As purchase criteria continue to evolve, the consideration set for the consumer now includes price, convenience, freshness, and safety. Factors most important to consumers are

  • variety, promotions (price)
  • quality
  • freshness

This evolution mandates improved departmental operations/operational excellence inclusive of temperature monitoring, food safety, and transparency. These are all the building blocks to support a quality offering, encourage impulse purchases, and ensure customer loyalty and confidence.

Appearance and perceived quality play a huge role in where consumers spend their money, so smart retailers are paying attention to temperature monitoring and food safety to ensure product integrity and prevent negative food safety experiences. Make a resolution to being preemptive and proactive in your approach to temperature monitoring and a digital food safety solution. TempAlert, now part of the Digi International family, offers best in class solutions worthy of an investment. Contact us today to discover how we could help your business.  

Topics: Food Safety

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