By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI
For over 30 years, I served as a fresh foods merchandising and marketing executive at a food retailer. As a result, the experience of perusing the produce aisle is deeply etched into my bones. I am intimately familiar with the spark of excitement one feels when identifying the plumpest red tomato in a bunch, the yellowest of bananas, the shiniest of apples and the crispest dew-covered romaine lettuce. It’s like some deep, instinctual alarm goes off in the back of our minds, alerting us to the presence of perfectly healthy and perfectly edible sustenance. On many occasions, I’ve taken an extra few seconds just to admire these stunning fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether I intended to put them in my shopping cart. Luckily, I am far from the only one who experiences this strong draw to plump and polished produce. Most shoppers do. In fact, appearance and quality has been the number-one factor for consumers when making fresh produce purchasing decisions every single year… well, every single year, except 2022.
According to FMI’s 2022 Power of Produce report, price now ranks as the number-one factor produce consumers consider. Twenty-five percent of shoppers ranked price first when making fresh produce purchasing decisions, followed by appearance (19%), health benefits (19%) and ripeness (15%). This astonishing shift in shopper psychology comes at a time of rising inflation, which is impacting consumer goods nationwide. Eighty-two percent report that fresh produce prices are somewhat or much higher in the fourth quarter of 2021.
To save money, 92% of consumers have changed their approach to buying produce. Over half (54%) frequently check sales prices at their primary store and nearly one-third (27%) check across stores. In addition to in-store signage, shoppers are increasingly using store apps, websites, social media and texts to find cost-effective options. Greater hawkishness on sales promotions has been paired with a heightened focus on shelf-life, as more shoppers seek to make their produce last and waste less at home. A tightening of the family wallet also explains why more consumers are making lists before they go to the store. Fortunately, produce still often prompts unplanned purchases, led by seasonality, promotions and eye-catching displays.
They say all that glitters is not gold, and we are seeing this philosophy play out in real time as consumers apply more scrutiny to glistening fruits and vegetables. The new prominence of price in produce purchasing decisions signals trying times for the average American shopper. Despite this more expensive reality, food retailers around the world are working hard to ensure produce options are plentiful and prices remain affordable, so consumers need not go without those shiny apples and ripe tomatoes they so adore.
To learn more about produce shopper purchasing decisions, download the full 2022 Power of Produce report. In addition, check out the Power of Produce infographic video below.