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Progressive Grocer's 2018 Produce Report: Category Remains Major Draw for Shoppers

Produce department managers have a lot on their minds these days. The product that arrives at stores must be fresh, but transportation costs can’t be too high.

As one retailer participant in Progressive Grocer’s annual Retail Produce & Floral Review put it, he hopes for "procurement of the right item at the right price." Also, product must be maintained in a fresh manner by employees who care about freshness to limit spoilage and shrink.

All of these things contribute to the bottom line. In Progressive Grocer’s survey of retail produce and floral executives, profit is the second-highest-rated issue facing produce departments today, after product quality. At the same time, the grocery research shows that produce managers are confronting competition from other supermarkets and online retailers.

By the Numbers

Produce sales were almost flat in comparison with last year, with an increase of only 1.1 percent, but the importance of produce as a consistent draw for supermarket shoppers remains as important as ever. Total produce dollar sales were $59.8 billion for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

A confident 72 percent of participants in Progressive Grocer’s supermarket research projected that their same-store department sales would increase for the entire year of 2018. In last year’s survey, only 63 percent of respondents expected same-store sales to increase for 2017. The emphasis in media concerning healthy eating may have influenced this response.

High-quality fruits and vegetables continue to be the top draw of all departments for supermarket shoppers, with 80 percent citing their availability as the reason that they select a primary store, according to the latest research from Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in its "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2018" report. Shoppers expect more from brick-and-mortar stores in terms of freshness, selection and price/value, according to the annual supermarket research report.

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