Retail panel gets inside shoppers' mindsCHICAGO — Midwest Produce Expo attendees got insight into what motivates the average consumer’s buying habits during a retail panel moderated by Pamela Riemenschneider, The Packer’s retail editor and editor of Produce Retailer magazine.

“It’s really nice to find out what’s in their head while they’re pushing the grocery cart,” Riemenschneider said during the Aug. 12 session.

The panel featured nine consumers from a variety of demographic backgrounds, all of whom said they were the primary shopper in their household and shopped for groceries at least once a week.

Panelists said freshness and value were the two biggest factors in what produce they buy and value and convenience determined what stores they shopped at.

“The brand doesn’t matter to me. The price does,” said panelist Terri N., who shops at a variety of retailers and club stores.

“Variety, one, price, two,” determines where panelist Katrina D. shops, she said.

Riemenschneider asked panelists if they were aware of locally grown produce in their stores or if they’d seen signs promoting local growers.

“My family tends to buy local just because it tastes better because it’s not shipped from across the country or overseas,” panelist Krista P. said.

Panelist Rose R. said she likes to buy local produce to support the local economy and businesses. Panelist Greg W. said he is interested in buying local, but “as long as there’s enough information, if it’s coming from overseas, it’s OK.”

Organic produce did not receive as warm a reception.

“I never buy organic,” panelist Frank W. said.

Most of the consumers said price was the main reason they chose not to buy organic, but they sometimes bought it or would consider buying it if it were on sale or at a lower price point.

Point-of-sale information such as recipes and nutrition facts was a popular topic, with most panelists saying they’d like to see use, storage and recipe ideas available when they shop the produce aisle. In response to an audience question about in-store produce sampling, panelist Katrina said sampling and exposure to new items influences her future buying decisions.

“If the kids love it, it becomes a consistent part of what I buy,” she said.