Men make grocery buying decisions too

07/19/2013 09:40:00 AM
Dan Galbraith

Dan Galbraith, Sections EditorDan Galbraith, Sections Editor I was first amused then perturbed when I read a MediaPost article titled “Moms Will Change Food-Buying Habits In 2013” by Tanya Irwin earlier this year.

Then came a March article “U.S. Potato Board zeroes in on ‘Linda,’” by Tara Schupner Congdon of The Packer, as well as other similar articles in trade press about fresh fruit and vegetable entities’ marketing focus on moms.

There’s even a Produce Mom blogger who is enjoying quite a lot of media attention, I understand.

While I realize moms are an important slice of the market, I never seem to find articles about shoppers like me, “Forty-Something Grandpas Who Are Mad as Heck and Ain’t Gonna Take it Anymore,” who can buy and eat food with the best of ’em.

We FSGs may not be as sought-after as Linda, nor able to leap tall banana displays in a single bound like The Produce Mom.

But we do make a lot of produce buying decisions, not only for ourselves but for children and grandchildren.

Somehow many in the produce industry seems to have forgotten men are people too. And we have buying power. And we eat lots of fresh produce, although admittedly sometimes it’s lettuce garnishing a cheeseburger.

And aren’t fresh-cut and single-serve fruit and vegetable packaging all the rage? While Linda says convenience is not her top priority, we FSGs are all about value-added produce.

Maybe we FSGs are a demographic worthy of the produce industry’s marketing dollars after all.

Many of us are more open-minded than produce moms, for instance. We’ll eat lettuce in salads, on sandwiches, in McWraps or just straight out of the shredded lettuce bag, when we’re lazy enough.

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A July 10 article in the Wall Street Journal by Anne Marie Chaker, titled “America’s Next Top Super Berry?” pursues the next sexy successor to acai.

Of course, berries are one of the most popular “superfoods” these days because they are not only high in antioxidants and low in food safety risk, but they also look and taste so good.

Their rich, vibrant colors make them big impulse buys, and they’re among the most versatile produce items for creative recipes.

“Most berries want to emulate blueberries, which have transformed from tasty things found in muffins and pancakes to stars of the produce aisle,” Lu Ann Williams, head of research for Innova Market Insights, Netherlands, says in the WSJ article.

“Now more varieties want to make the leap from seasonal treat to staple. Since 2008, Innova says, U.S. marketers have introduced 358 products with goji berries as an ingredient, about 200 with bilberry and more than 500 with elderberry,” the article continues.

Of course, regular Packer readers already know from our coverage that demand for berries is on the rise, leading to greater U.S. production as well as a surging number of imports, particularly raspberries from Mexico and blueberries from Chile.

“The result is that berries remain a premium product, with an average retail price of $2.82 for units comparable with $1.68 a pound for stone fruits like plums, peaches and nectarines, according to Nielsen Holdings Perishables Group,” the WSJ article states.

“In the past two years, weekly same-store supermarket sales of berries have risen 18%, according to Nielsen, despite an average 4% rise in retail prices for the berries in the same period. Sales of raspberries rose 31%, and blackberries and blueberries 27% and 25%, respectively. Strawberries’ respectable 11% increase is actually a drag on growth.”

Don Sturm, for one, whose Corbett, Ore.-based Sturm’s Berry Farm is up from about 150 acres in 2008 to almost 300 acres now, is betting the next berry breaking sales records will be another kind of black berry, like the acai.

According to the WSJ, Sturm and others have formed a new company, BerriHealth, to sell “black raspberry liquid extract and freeze-dried powder to university researchers testing the effects on cancers and chronic inflammatory diseases.”

After reading the WSJ article, though, I feel the prospects for an ample acai successor are slim at best for the fresh market.

Westin Foods, of my hometown of Omaha, Neb., is marketing aronias under the Superberries brand, but only in gummy chews for kids and in smoothie concentrate, according to the WSJ.

Another top berry, the Olallieberry, a California hybrid cross of loganberry and youngberry, is mostly used for flavored syrups and products such as lemonades and iced tea, according to the WSJ article.

But the best thing about berries is that I don’t think the fresh produce industry needs to reinvent the wheel to sell more product.

If marketers simply hold the course, I believe they’ll keep gaining popularity, even if a new trendy type of berry doesn’t surface.

dgalbraith@thepacker.com

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