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Value-Added Produce Strikes a High Note as Organic Takes a Hit

FMI’s 'Power of Produce 2023' report highlights produce-buying habits
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
More consumers than ever are reaching for pre-cut and pre-packaged produce at the grocery store, according to FMI's "2023 Power of Produce" report.

Even as inflationary prices took hold on groceries and many shoppers practiced money-saving measures at retail in 2022, fresh fruits and vegetables remained an important category for consumers. Indeed, the latest installment of the "Power of Produce 2023" report from FMI – The Food Industry Association found that produce department sales grew 4.8% to $74.5 billion in 2022.

The report, which was released at the Southeast Produce Council’s annual Southern Exposure event, also found that while fresh produce sales increased, inflation caused a drop in volume as many shoppers changed their shopping habits and also began buying more frozen and canned produce. Nonetheless, overall produce sales and volume sales remained ahead of 2019 numbers.

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One trend that has had staying power in recent years is value-added produce, with 68% of consumers saying they’d like their store to carry a bigger selection of these pre-washed, pre-cut products, despite higher prices and inflation. Organic produce, on the other hand, saw volume decrease in 2022, with one-quarter of shoppers admitting to purchasing cheaper fresh produce due to higher prices.

“Consumers are continuing to purchase produce at roughly the same volume as in 2021 despite rising prices due to inflation,” said Rick Stein, VP for fresh foods at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “The shift we’re noticing is that shoppers turned to more affordable conventional fresh fruits and vegetables and canned and frozen vegetables rather than buying pricier organic items.”

Continued Stein: “Shoppers are searching for deals, but also willing to pay more for convenience – like pre-cut and washed products. This shows how complicated the consumer decision process is. On one hand, shoppers are saying price is important, but when it comes to convenience, they are willing to pay.”  

As for produce consumption, one-third of Americans typically consume fresh produce daily, while 58% eat fresh produce at least four to five days per week. Fresh fruit is most often consumed at breakfast, followed by a morning or afternoon snack, and in an evening snack. Most shoppers (72%) say they always or usually include fresh vegetables with dinner. 

About 30% of shoppers say the quality of the produce department helps them determine where they shop for groceries, with 26% of shoppers ranking price as the top factor when selecting and purchasing fresh produce. Some 72% of consumers say supermarkets are their most commonly shopped channel for fresh produce, though convenience and drug stores are making in-roads. 

Finally, the report found that nutritional content is an important aspect of produce purchases. More than one-third of shoppers want more information on what constitutes a serving size, while nearly half want more information about the nutrition content, health benefits and ways to integrate produce into snacking.

FMI’s "Power of Produce 2023" report was made possible by Yerecic Label, Southeast Produce Council and Invafresh.

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