By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, Food Marketing Institute
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As I walk around the perimeter of the grocery store today, two big trends are paying off. One is transparency—the shopper’s desire to know more about where their food comes from and how it was made. The second is social and cultural alignment, or a company’s ability to grow sales by integrating consumer motivations and values that impact sales. These are two of the Top Trends in Fresh identified in our research conducted with IRI that are reshaping the shopper’s fresh food experience.

The Fresh Foods Shopper and Transparency

Two in three fresh food shoppers report that health & wellness/transparency has become a more motivating factor when they shop than in the past. Today’s fresh food shopper expects clarity, accuracy and usefulness of food-related information from producers and retailers. Nearly half of the fresh shoppers define healthy food by the “absence of the bad stuff.” For these shoppers, the focus on organic remains important and a key factor in selecting products.

When it comes to transparency, the order of factors that are important to fresh food shoppers are:

  1. Health & wellness – 65%
  2. Free of growth hormones – 33%
  3. Free of antibiotics – 32%
  4. Free of pesticides or fertilizers – 31%
  5. Non-GMOs or bioengineered ingredients – 30%
  6. Non-irradiated foods – 15%
Social Listening to the Fresh Shopper

At the same time that transparency needs are rising, shoppers are talking more and more about these issues on social media and their conversations are becoming more detailed. Specifically, IRI found that social media conversations about non-GMO increased 123 percent, animal welfare conversations increased 231 percent and fair food and wages conversations increased 83 percent over last year. These discussions are calling out specifics including grass-fed, free-range/cage-free, seafood sustainability and no antibiotics ever. In fact, 44 percent of consumers have stated that social and cultural factors have gained importance to them over previous years.

Retailers and manufacturers are building competitive advantages by listening to the customer and developing a deeper understanding of how social media discussions can provide insights for programs, innovation and personalization.

How to Respond To These Trends in Your Fresh Department

Overall, these two trends represent opportunities for food retailers across the store perimeter. Here are some ways retailers can capitalize on the transparency and social listening trends:

  • Amplify the Integrity of Fresh – For key target audiences, increase the focus on social and culture needs that are relevant to them throughout your fresh departments.
  • Own the Consumer Connection – Retailers are a trusted source of information for shoppers. Continue to maintain that trust and nurture it, particularly in the fresh category.
  • Be Consistent Across Departments – Shoppers see the total store. Transparency and social alignment need to transcend categories.
  • Showcase Your Work on Social Programs – Share your stories of working with community partners on programs that reduce waste and maintain food integrity.
Want More?

Learn more from IRI thought leaders Sally Lyons Wyatt and Chris DuBois as they teamed up with me on the first two of five webinar recordings from the Top Trends in Fresh series:


  • Transparency
  • Retail Operations
  • Health & Wellness
  • Fresh Foods
  • Corporate and Social Responsibility