Interest in workers’ rights and global farming mean that consumers are getting vocal about a lot of things these days. Thankfully, the product offered by the fresh fruit and vegetable industry is a solid winner. Consumers continue to clamor for fresh produce, and they’re becoming more conscientious about how it’s produced and where it comes from.
Grower issues affecting purchases
This year in the Fresh Trends survey, we asked whether fair trade labels were a factor in fresh produce purchases. It turns out that nearly six in 10 shoppers (59%) said they would be more likely to buy fresh produce that contained a “fair trade” label, which identifies goods that are grown with protections in place for workers—like ensuring they’re paid a fair wage. Hispanic consumers were the most likely demographic group overall to favor this type of product—72% of Hispanic shoppers said they would purchase “fair wage” produce.
Supporting local farmers was also of interest to shoppers this year. Most (63%) said they cared about keeping their food dollars close to home and supporting their own community. More than half of consumers (55%) said they made a conscious effort to buy locally grown/regional produce; 48% said they were buying more locally grown produce than they were five years ago.
Interest in fresh produce continues at a steady pace. This year, 73% of shoppers said they were buying a larger variety of fresh produce than 20 years ago.
Avocados, asparagus, bell peppers and broccoli topped the list of items that shoppers said they were buying now that they did not buy previously. Better nutrition (specifically adding more nutrients) was the prime reason that more than three-fourths of survey respondents said they’d increased the number of fruits and veggies in their diets.
When it comes to making the decision to try something new, consumers let their taste buds do the talking. More than 40% of shoppers said that sampling at the supermarket was a key way to get them to try a new fruit or vegetable, and 36% said they would buy a new item after trying it at a restaurant.
More than two-thirds of shoppers (67%) said they were buying more fresh fruits and vegetables than last year, and 70% said they bought more produce than five years ago. Thirty-five percent of consumers said that offering a price break was a sure way to get them to buy a produce item they had not tried before.
Most shoppers (81%) said they purchased fresh fruits in the past 12 months; 76% of consumers said they grabbed fresh vegetables in the past year.
Sizing up store formats
For some consumers, the availability of new store formats entering the marketplace had a direct effect on their produce purchases this year. Fifty-nine percent of shoppers said that new stores brought a greater variety in the types and amounts of fresh produce available in their area, so they were buying more simply based on availability. Others said that new store formats evened the playing field, so they were able to get better deals because of greater competition among stores. Health food formats were also helpful in increasing produce purchases—27% of shoppers said that having these stores nearby increased the amount of produce they bought.
While new formats might have made it easier to secure fresh fruits and vegetables, consumers also appear to be revamping their habits, which is boosting produce intake.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they had changed their eating/buying habits over the course of the past year. Forty-three percent of respondents said they were eating at home more over the past 12 months, and 32% opted to ditch processed products in favor of more fresh foods. Slightly more than half of consumers (52%) said they bought the majority of their produce in bulk; however, the trend toward packaged produce is increasing, as 52% of shoppers said they had purchased more packaged produce than bulk over the past five years.
Nearly six in 10 consumers (59%) said they were choosing fresh produce as a snack more now than they had five years prior.
Eyeing individual items
Potatoes beat out the ever-popular banana as the top commodity this year, with 71% of shoppers saying they purchased the tubers over the past 12 months. This versatile vegetable has been the top vegetable of choice for three consecutive years now.
Several vegetables won consumers’ hearts this year, causing them to hop higher on the list of most popular vegetables. Broccoli broke into the top five this year, climbing from No. 7 on the vegetable list, and cabbage jumped five spots from No. 19 in Fresh Trends 2018 to No. 14 this year. Salad mix fell from No. 8 to No. 10 over the past year. It’s possible that recalls over romaine lettuce during 2018 affected these results.
After hovering around the No. 10 and No. 11 spots on the top 20 list of fruits over the past five years, avocados made a significant jump, going from the No. 11 most-popular fruit in Fresh Trends 2018 to No. 8 this year.