Fresh Is the Name of the Game in the World of Produce
Fruits and vegetables are crucial components of a healthy diet. Even if you do not follow a plant-based diet, it’s still essential that you eat more produce than meat in order to support positive health outcomes, maintain energy levels, and fuel your body. In the past, produce was often frozen, then warmed and served within restaurants. Grocery stores had massive selections of frozen vegetables and fruits. Today, things are changing. Fresh is now the name of the game.
All niches within the food industry are trending toward fresh produce. Restaurants boast about farm to table freshness. Chefs cook with seasonal vegetables and fruits local to specific geographic areas. Even supermarkets are trying to cash in on the trend by expanding their produce sections, buying from local growers, and even offering recipes in-store for shoppers to encourage buying produce.
The fresh trend has even sparked entirely new niches within the wider food industry. Take meal kit companies such as Blue Apron in Canada, as well as options like HelloFresh or Chefs Plate, and their dedication to delivering fresh, high-quality produce and meats to their customers. These new business models are in their infancy, but will continue to expand and fresh produce will play a central role in that. In fact, the fresh trend is reshaping the very way that consumers think about produce, which will have an immense and lasting impact on the landscape.
A Look at the Statistics
To really understand the role that fresh produce is playing in shoppers’ lives as well as in their dining habits, consider the following:
- In 2018, retail produce department generated $60.8 billion in sales, according to the United Fresh Produce Association and Nielsen’s report.
- The same report found that shoppers spent more money on transactions involving fresh produce, and that 50% of all grocery store trips included fresh produce.
- Packaged salads and other value-added fresh produce options saw more profit growth than other segments of the fresh produce market.
A Wider Range of Options
The future of the fresh produce industry is bright thanks in part to innovative marketing programs, a wider availability of high-quality fruits and vegetables, an increasing awareness of how important produce is in a daily diet, and the realization that fresh produce contains higher concentrations of essential vitamins and minerals than some other forms.
For instance, in 2018, Zona Sul, a Brazilian supermarket group, unveiled a program that allowed consumers to pick their own fresh produce from the growers. While this initially expected to be more of a marketing stunt than anything else, the significant sales increase experienced by the group points to consumer willingness to try new things in order to get fresher produce. The novelty of picking fresh produce from a farm by those who may have never experienced it also should not be ignored.
The Growing Role of Technology
Technology has become more embedded in all aspects of our lives. The rise of ecommerce around the world is an excellent example of this. PMA reported that as of 2018, China’s fresh fruit ecommerce industry had grown by nearly 60%. The same trends were present in most other countries. Combine the trend of ecommerce with faster shipping and you come upon another seismic shift that is only now beginning to be felt within the produce industry – meal kits.
Supermarket News highlights that despite some naysayers, meal kit sales continued to show strength in 2018, and that trend has continued into 2019. What is fueling this growth? There are several factors at play, including the following:
- Consumers are increasingly pressed for time. Meal kits offer the ability to create nutritious, delicious meals at home with fresh meats and produce dropped off at their doors. There’s no need to drive to the grocery store, spend time dodging other customers in the aisles, and then wait at the checkout. A great example of this time-saving capabilities is how Blue Apron teamed up with Jet.com to offer same-day meal kit delivery.
- Improved access to fresh produce is another important aspect, and you can see this at work in companies ranging from Purple Carrot, which specializes in vegan foods, to HelloFresh and its partnership with grocery and convenience store chains.
Ultimately, fresh produce is changing the entire food industry driven by consumer preferences and the demand for healthier, more nutritious food.