Pamela RiemenschneiderKent Mullinix, left, director of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Institute for Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, British Columbia, talks with Sunghwan Yi, professor in the department of marketing and consumer studies, University of Guelph, following the business session, "Produce: What do Consumers Want?" at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association Convention in Toronto.TORONTO — Canada and the U.S. aren’t enjoying the growth they have in the past, but some retail channels are seeing dynamic shifts.
“Mass merchandisers are up 37% on produce,” said Carman Allison, director of consumer insights for Nielsen Canada, during a business session titled “Produce: What do Consumers Want?” on April 19 at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention.
Warehouses and health food stores also posted growth, at 13% and 7% respectively, Allison said.
“We’re starting to see more consumers looking at the value proposition of shopping at big box stores,” he said. “Volumetrically, fruits and vegetables are keeping up with the population growth.”
The top five hot categories in vegetables are kale, yams, kohlrabi, artichokes and okra, while the least growth was seen in turnips, asparagus, rappini, broccoli and leeks.
The top five hot categories in fruit are, according to data from traditional retailers, pomegranates, avocados, limes, apricots and papaya, while the least growth is happening in figs, nectarines, plums, peaches and mangoes.
Allison said consumers still are value-seeking, with 63% saying they’re trying to cut costs.
“Thirty-five percent of dollar sales are sold with a price cut,” he said. “In 2008, that number was 25%.”
During the second part of the session, Sunghwan Yi, professor in the department of marketing and consumer studies at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, discussed a study that looked at consumer behavior as it relates to type of produce consumed and perception of health.
Yi said the study looked at consumers who preferred common vegetables like carrots, cucumbers and lettuce to consumers who preferred frozen and prepared meals to consumers who preferred items like brussels sprouts and asparagus.
The study found consumers who like produce with an unfavorable perception of flavor typically perceive all types of produce as easy to prepare, healthy and tasty. They consume more servings of fruits and vegetables, have a lower convenience orientation and are older.
Predictably, those who eat more common fruits and vegetables consume fewer and have a less favorable impression of preparation skills, and those who preferred frozen and prepared saw cruciferous vegetables as healthful and nothing else.
“We found we should emphasize taste and sensory attributes of cruciferous vegetables for this group,” Yi said.
Ease of prep or healthfulness?
For the average consumers, who found cruciferous vegetables tasty but not easy to prepare, Yi said the study concluded information like instant access to easy-to-follow recipes is key to increasing consumption.
“We shouldn’t really focus too much on healthiness,” Yi said. “Many people tend to infer that vegetables and fruits that are touted as extremely healthy are not as tasty.
“Retailers need to find out how to let people know about the excellent taste and sensory attributes, perhaps by providing samples in the store.”