A year ago when I started writing the Focus on Fresh for the 2021 Know Your Commodity Guide, I had no idea we would still be talking about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer habits in 2022.
And yet, here we are. Research continues to emerge on the ‘new’ consumer and new buying habits, and reminds us that, for the most part, retail is a ‘shopping with the eyes’ activity for most consumers and that shopping in-store still dominate most North American households.
I spoke with Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics about the most recent research she’s conducted and what we can learn for 2022 and beyond, and we identified five key trends to watch. Roerink’s most recent study was conducted in August 2021 and presented on behalf of the Southeast Produce Council.
Trend #1: Today’s Buyer Versus Tomorrow’s Buyer
Framing information on today’s consumer (Baby Boomer and Gen X) versus tomorrow’s consumer (Millennial and Gen Z) can paint two very different pictures.
It’s important to remember that while baby boomer and Gen X households hold the majority of purchasing power, younger generations will shape how consumers spend over the next decade.
“Of every $100 of production, Millennials make up just $24 and Gen Z makes up just $1, while Gen X and Baby Boomers make up the other $67 split evenly,” Roerink said. . “But the growth rate of millennial shoppers is 2.4 times that of millennials, compared to just 1.3 times for Gen X and 0.4 times for baby boomers. That’s a really big difference.
This is a big deal when we talk about trends like sustainability, which are getting a lot of interest, but not much noticeable action among consumers.
“A lot of times what I hear when I talk about the importance of sustainability, a lot of people say ‘I don’t really see it in the numbers,'” Roerink said. “That’s right, you don’t, because a lot of the generations that currently make up the majority of production dollars (baby boomers and Gen Xers) aren’t as engaged in some of these topics.”
But the wave will come, as Millennials and Gen Z gain purchasing power, and the industry must be ready.
Trend #2: Don’t put all your eggs in one online basket
It’s no secret that online shopping has taken a big leap forward in the past couple of years. It was already trending up before the world stopped, so to speak. In early 2020, 17% of consumers said they purchased products online, according to research by Category Partners LLC.
In the summer of 2020, this number increased to 51%.
But, survey after survey, consumers still prefer to shop in-store.
“We talk – a lot – about e-commerce, but even at the height of the pandemic, only 19% of store visits were online, and by the end of summer 2021, we were down to 13% of visits online. online store, so the vast majority of grocery shopping is still done in-store,” Roerink said.
And consumers still choose their favorite store based on perishables.
“We asked people how to choose one store over another, because let’s face it, we all have a million stores around us these days,” Roerink said. “It’s the combination of produce and meat, so having good produce is so important, especially if you think about how a lot of trips go back to the store.”
Trend #3: Is direct-to-consumer back?
While most consumers prefer to shop in-store, a growing number are attracted to new direct-to-consumer concepts. It’s not just the golden pear in a Harry and David Christmas fruit box that’s catching consumers’ attention.
Savvy marketers are taking to social media to promote new direct-to-consumer options like Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, and The Peach Truck.
Consumers are willing to pay exceptionally high sums – relative to their in-store purchase – for these new models.
One example is The Peach Truck, where consumers pre-register to pick up a can of peaches as they are unloaded from a tractor-trailer, often in the parking lot of a school or mall. .
“Here’s the kicker: you have to buy 25 pounds of peaches for almost $50,” Roerink said. “But over a 52-week period, our average spend is only $4.15, so buying The Peach Truck is 10 times what people spend on peaches in the store.”
And The Peach Truck messages shoppers almost daily about proper ripening, storage, and recipes to get the most out of their massive purchase — an area that many consumers struggle with when considering in-store shopping.
Trend #4 – Changes in advertising strategy
At the height of the pandemic, retailers had to reshuffle their promotional strategies with the uncertainty of supply, especially in household items like paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning products. Fresh produce was largely unaffected by supply disruptions, making it an attractive option for advertisements and promotions.
This uncertainty in advertising strategy has caused retailers to rethink, revamp or revise their promotions, and some of these changes have become permanent.
“The big shock, I would say, is that 10 years ago this was the paper flyer that people looked at in stores 75% of the time,” Roerink said. “Two years ago we saw in-store signage overtake paper flyer and this year we’ve seen paper flyer drop even further and retailer apps drop to second place in consumer preference.”
Digital advertisements, especially retailer apps, offer many exciting opportunities for promotions and shopper insights.
“I think apps will continue to grow and really become a lot more important,” Roerink says.
Trend #5: Beware of impending inflation
But even though ads and promotions have been a core strategy for retailers and vendors for decades, high inflation could dampen price-based ones.
Inflation, especially in fresh food, accelerated at the start of the summer and continues to rise.
“Typically when we see fresh fruit inflation, we see people moving to frozen or canned fruit or another type of fruit that might have lower numbers,” Roerink said. “But at the moment there is really no relief in store. We really see it in proteins where you see the same substitution patterns happening.
When inflation is high, promotional activity declines – and with it the consumption of fresh produce could disappear.
“We’re seeing people really affected on both sides, just at a time when we’re focusing on how to get more people interested in fresh fruit and vegetables, and I think we need to be aware that these price levels have opened up to people’s eyes and they’re very aware of what’s going on in the store,” she said.