NASHVILLE, TN — Today the Southeastern Manufacturing Council (SEPC) BB #:191194 What’s New? From Consumer View 2022 at one of two training sessions at the Southern Innovations Fall Show.
“Only 12% of consumers are getting the daily recommended amount of fresh produce,” said David Sherrod, president and CEO of SEPC. “That means there’s a lot of room for growth. We looked at how technology and innovation at the farm, in the store, on the menu and for the planet can help consumers increase their consumption of fresh produce. Exhibitors were encouraged to innovate in each section and the “What’s New?” Presentations of the “Silent Theater” were held during the exhibition by pioneering organizations.
The main findings for each of the four sections of the study are as follows.
On the farm
Most consumers (74%) do not know how growers use technology, but four in ten are interested in visiting a virtual field, farm or greenhouse. In addition, half of consumers like the idea of mini-greenhouses in stores or restaurants. This is because 55% of consumers want to know more about how the fresh produce they buy is grown. According to consumers, the most important communication channels are the label on the package (57%), information on the brand’s website or app (47%) and in-store signage (42%).
“It’s important to note that research has shown that innovation can drive revenue growth,” Sherrod said. “More than half of consumers are interested in new varieties.”
New mixed varieties and new sizes, such as cauliflower in a serving or mini avocado, are generating a lot of interest. In addition, 46% of consumers are intrigued by the idea of improving the functional benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables, such as extra vitamin C, a longer shelf life or onions that are tear-resistant. “Boomers are much more likely to think it’s a bit of science fiction, but 54% of Gen Zers who grew up in a world of packaging claims and signage like the idea,” Sherrod noted.
In the store
“The research showed that the competition for fresh produce is much, much greater than for frozen and canned,” Sherrod noted. “Supplements, shakes, squeeze bags, injectables, and center-store products promoting plant-based products are all taking a bite out of fresh produce sales.” Sherrod is referring to the 81% of consumers who believe that this type of food can help them reach the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
The science of portion size is of general interest to 50% of consumers, and 42% like the idea of their grocery store offering personalized nutrition programs. In addition to serving size recommendations, consumers want to see nutrition information, specific health benefits, provenance, and preparation/storage instructions.
Consumers also strongly believe in the connection between fresh produce and their own health. While awareness of prescription foods is low at 20%, 53% believe that fresh produce can help with health problems.
Promotions remain very important as in-store signage, apps and digital newsletters have replaced paper displays as the main research area. Conventional meals are out, and consumers are looking to a variety of sources for recipes and meal ideas, including a strong interest in purchasing recipes (46%).
In the menu
High inflation is putting pressure on dining out, with 52% of consumers changing their orders when shopping at restaurants, whether it’s takeout, delivery or dine-in. 60% look for cheaper items on the menu, 54% skip dessert, 44% skip appetizers and 44% go to a cheaper restaurant.
Consumers also expressed strong interest in a number of ways to increase fresh food consumption in restaurants: 71% are interested in visiting a salad bar in addition to a first course; 65% would like to see drinks/smoothies with fresh fruits/vegetables on the menu; 63% are interested in fresh fruit as a dessert or snack; and 60% like the idea of being able to replace traditional carbohydrates such as pasta or rice with vegetables.
“The study also revealed consumer interest in applying retail trends to restaurant menus,” noted Sherrod. “Seasonal and local fruits and vegetables are the most exciting areas for retail and also top the list of desired menu attributes for catering.” However, in today’s inflationary environment, 49% of consumers believe that the best value and best quality should be a restaurant’s priority – and provenance, including global sourcing, should not be considered. Consumer approval of restaurants that use fresh versus frozen or canned food is significantly higher at 72%. And 54% would like to see more unique fresh products on the menu.
Using technology to order and pay for food in restaurants is becoming more accepted, but the idea of robots bringing food instead of a server is far from a hit with consumers: 31% simply can’t imagine the concept. and 26% say they couldn’t stand the idea.
For the planet
Four in 10 Americans struggle with fruits and vegetables spoiling before they can eat them, and 91% end up throwing away fresh produce. Additionally, 37% struggle with fresh produce that is packaged too big for their budget.
“With household food waste a clear concern, 46% of Americans like the idea of different conservation technologies,” Sherrod said. “Consumers want to know more about the implications for food safety, nutrition and taste, but are excited about solutions.”
Consumers say that commitments to reduce food and packaging waste, give back to the community and support are important and can influence purchases in just over half. While quality and freshness are the most important purchasing factors for Boomer shoppers, sustainability is the most important factor for 35% of Gen Z. However, no more than 16% of consumers remember producer brands that were involved in these areas.
“In reality, virtually every product brand and retailer has a commitment to sustainability,” Sherrod said. “But consumers don’t know that. We have an opportunity to do good by creating positive sentiment among consumers.”
Online research of 1,500 consumers was conducted and provided by 210 Analytics. The study was conducted in July 2022.
About the South-Eastern Council for the production of products
The Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) is a non-profit, member-driven association of more than 3,000 executives from all aspects of the fruit and vegetable industry. It was founded more than 20 years ago to increase the value of fresh fruits and vegetables in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia through networking, innovation, community and education. Today, SEPC is a thriving organization that continues to share and implement its vision, mission, values and goals. Learn more at www.seproducecouncil.com.