For the consumer, it is a great time for fresh produce. Yet, it may not be so good for the supermarket retailer.
You may be looking at market data and thinking this doesn’t make sense.
Your sales may even be increasing as well as your market share.
But are you measuring the right marketplace?
I submit that the marketplace is changing rapidly, and it is never more apparent than during the local season.
The supermarket is facing unprecedented growth from competitors whose sales data is hard to track.
In 1990, we only had 50 Community Supported Agriculture programs in the U.S.
Today, we have more than 6,000.
CSAs provide consumers a box of fruits and vegetables once a week for one flat fee.
Consumers never are sure what they will get, but they are signing up in record numbers.
My family has subscribed to our local CSA for the past five years. During the CSA season, we find ourselves trying many new produce items, eating more produce than any other time of the year, and buying significantly fewer fresh produce items at the supermarket.
Recently I sat down with the manager of our local CSA to discuss how his business is progressing.
He indicated that he and his peers are starting to understand that they can’t grow all of the types of produce the members are looking for, so they are now partnering with other CSAs and local growers to exchange product.
Each group will focus on growing fewer products at a larger scale so they can all provide a greater depth of offerings to their individual members.
This type of CSA evolution creates even more competition for supermarket produce dollars.
The number of farmers markets has increased over 400% since 1994, and many of those farmers markets have expanded significantly in size.
Though data in this area is a bit vague, I suspect sales at farmers markets have more than doubled in the past five years.
Interestingly, price ranks sixth in reasons why consumers choose to shop these markets.
How does that contrast with our never-ending desire to have a hot price on the front page?
At a local farmers market I find quality sweet corn selling for $7 per dozen, while supermarkets are running corn for a third of that price.
Consumers are saying that the corn from the local market is fresher and tastes better.
Huh? Isn’t the supermarket buying its corn locally too?
“Agri-tainment” farms are expanding as well. Last year, my family visited the local you-pick apple orchard. We paid to park, took a hay ride to the field and picked 10 pounds of Honeycrisp apples.