Trend Watch: A Walk Through the Fresh Departments

Trend Watch: A Walk Through the Fresh Departments

January 8, 2020
Annette Maggi

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

The numbers say it all about fresh. According to IRI’s 2017 Top Trends in Fresh Foods study, the grocery store perimeter has outpaced other areas by 2.1 times. IRI also reports that spending in the fresh departments, including produce, prepared foods, bakery, meat and seafood as grown from $116 billion in 2013 to $140 billion in 2017. More recent data from IRI indicates the fresh perimeter growth is slowing, with just one percent increases from 2017 to 2018. Increased purchases in the fresh grocery departments is changing the way retailers do business and creating opportunity for retail dietitians.

Why the Shift
Convenience and health are the two primary reasons consumers are increasing purchases in fresh. While it isn’t always backed up by science, consumers perceive fresh to be healthier. Fresh produce, seafood containing omega-3 fats, lean cuts of meat and poultry – there are many healthy products in the fresh perimeter. But prepared items like ready-to-heat meals, meal kits, and grab-and-go items aren’t always aligned with health guidance creating an opportunity for retail dietitians to engage these department heads and retail chefs to ensure healthier offerings are included in the product lines.

When it comes to convenience, fresh cut and prepared produce items are trending high as are refrigerated side dishes and deli prepared entrees like sushi. Sales of convenience items like these are overtaking more traditional items that require more prep. Retail RDNs can help shoppers navigate this space with quick and easy recipes for value-driven stables like bananas, ground meats and whole chickens.

Retail Opportunities
Retailers across North America are finding ways to capitalize on this trend. Stop and Shop, for example, updated the format of 20 stores to increase the availability of fresh foods and ready-to-prepare meals. Meijer has launched a new convenience store concept, focused more on fresh grocery items and prepared meals. Eden Fresh Market launched in Georgia with a focus on a much great selection of fresh foods.

Other strategies to employ include cross-promotions of fresh with other departments as shoppers seek meal and snack solutions, not ingredient silos. The Produce for Better Health Foundation, for example, partners with retailers on their Produce Pairings Program, pairing produce with other nutrient-dense foods. A Veggies as Vessels promotion in 2019 at Fresh Thyme stores, paired potatoes with lean pork or walnut chorizo options through in-store solution stations, online promotions, and media segments. 

As consumers define value differently today – including health and convenience – retailers can win by promoting this new value proposition, which goes beyond price, to their shoppers. In-store signage, social and digital chatter, and in-store staff trained to highlight the benefits of items in the fresh departments are all important when it comes to promoting the fresh departments. It’s also essential for retailers to seek out partners that can help take their stores’ fresh experience to a new level. The space is continually evolving and the right partners can help retailers stay ahead of this trend.