With the latest research on fresh produce sales, brands and marketers alike have been avidly sifting through the trends and challenges that are sure to change the marketplace.

Produce managers who read The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2017 study, for example, know that convenience and value are the top considerations cited by fresh produce shoppers; and while some produce items saw a drop in sales since last year, still others increased. A variety of factors goes into these findings, but one of the most intriguing nuggets is the influence of the elusive Generation Z – the demographic born after 1990.

Many produce brands are still refining their pitch to Millennials, or Generation Y, who already represent a whopping 1/3 of the population.  And as it turns out, Generation Z may be just as influential on food trends as Millennials – but they also bear some striking differences.  

While it’s in the organic category where both generations have shown the most impact, savvy produce marketers still have to find that sweet spot that touches on convenience and value in all categories.

What are some of the similarities and differences marketers should know about?

  • While both Millennials and Gen Z are interested in healthy and organic food, Millennials are more loyal to brands; Gen Z is more interested in quality and freshness regardless of brand, and will switch to something they think is healthier. Produce marketers need to appeal to both impulses.
  • Millennials love convenience, so they may be drawn even more to pre-packaged salads and convenient berry containers, for example, than their younger counterparts. Gen Z is less focused on convenience, and is more likely to eat fresh, healthy meals at home than processed, microwaved or ready-to-eat meals.  For marketers, this means offering a range of packaging, portion, and organic vs. standard options so all shoppers can see what appeals to them.
  • Gen Z spends much more of their money on food and beverages than Millennials did at their age. Additionally, Gen Z grew up amidst healthy eating trends, global flavors and higher food awareness in general. Both generations are seen as growing the interest in fresh produce, albeit slowly.  This also points to the importance of broadening the range of options, and speaking to both groups’ priorities.
  • While Gen Z likes to spend money on food, they are also resource-conscious and want their purchase to “mean something.” More importantly, they seek authentic in-store experiences and prefer to feel, smell and taste something before they buy it. Therefore how products are positioned in real life is key to connecting with them.
  • Because Gen Z is more likely to share and “influence” others, they have the potential to not only grow the market, but inspire others to follow – including older generations. This means produce marketers should think about ways to “reach them where they live” – what’s for dinner is what they see online, so more digital and social media efforts in addition to smart in-store marketing is sure to follow in the coming years.

To paraphrase The Packer, Americans already know the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables – it’s up to retailers and marketers to make them appealing, convenient and a better value than other food options.

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