Though the average supermarket fresh produce department has been riding a wave of unprecedented gains during the past 12 months, retail category executives are modestly cautious about getting carried away by the possibilities of ever-riper category growth for the balance of the year, according to consensus viewpoints expressed in Progressive Grocer’s 2014 Retail Produce & Floral Review.
While fresh produce has long been the crown jewel of most supermarkets’ overall fresh statement, the department is progressively taking on an even greater role in light of heightened consumer desire for more nutritious, less processed foods. And though fresh produce purchases continue to reign supreme for main meals, a growing number of consumers are embracing smaller meals and snacks, and are turning to conveniently packaged fruits and vegetables to fill the bill.
To take full advantage of the plentiful opportunities abounding thanks to higher fresh vegetable and fruit consumption, savvy store leaders are playing up sensory cues with more impactful displays accentuating a global — and, as often as possible, a local — bounty.
Mindful that the department is a top factor for today’s consumers in deciding where to shop, retail produce directors can ill afford to rest on traditional tactics to ensure that their stores’ fresh produce proposition is maintained. That’s why many are turning up the wattage on planned investments of energy-efficient lighting, cases, signage and mobile merchandisers — just one of several important takeaways revealed in this year’s Retail Produce & Floral Review.
Results for PG's exclusive, retailer-driven study were once again based on direct input from a cross-section of national, regional and independent category leaders responsible for their stores' fresh produce and floral procurement decisions. The complete study will appear in our upcoming October issue, which will be available in digital format during the week of October 6.
Among the key highlights of the annual survey, 75.7 percent of survey participants confirmed stellar fresh produce sales performance during 2014 thus far, while 9.2 percent reported declines, rounded out by 15.1 percent whose produce sales are holding the line with last year. However, when asked what they anticipate will unfold with produce department sales during the most influential selling period of the calendar year (Q4), 70.7 percent of panelists expressed a more cautionary view, alongside 26.8 percent who anticipate status quo sales for the remainder of the year, offset by a mere 2.4 percent who foresee potential sales declines.
While floral sales contribute an average 2.1 percent to the parent produce department’s total pie, things are coming up roses for 40.8 percent of retail panelists who reported increased sales in the past year. Meantime, nearly the same percent (37.5) reported steady comparable floral category sales, good for a 1.8 percent overall gain. The remaining 21.7 percent, however, reported decreased floral sales in the past year in tandem with lingering tight budgets that make it easy for shoppers to prune fresh flowers and related impulse purchases from their baskets.
Stay tuned for PG's complete 2014 Retail Produce & Floral Review, which takes a closer look at on-trend products, shrink, produce sales by segment and top merchandising tactics, rounded out by 52-week point-of-sale data from Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts.