By Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI

Shopper illustration with fresh produce

If I asked you what are the most important fresh foods topics for the industry now, how would you respond? You might point to subjects such as food price inflation, competing with restaurants, sustainability, health and well-being, prepared foods, and others.

Those are all highly important areas. We asked a variation on this question to the members of FMI’s Fresh Foods Leadership Council to help us determine which three fresh foods topics should be spotlighted at our upcoming annual FreshForward conference. This event focuses on thought leadership and identifying action steps for the fresh industry. Our council members pointed to three timely topics they would like to explore including ecommerce, meal planning and Gen Z.

I’m very excited about showcasing these issues at FreshForward, which each benefit from recent FMI research findings. Here’s a quick run-down of how I see each one.

1. Ecommerce and Fresh Foods

Perishables categories have been making progress in online shopping. FMI’s 2022 research on The State of Fresh Foods 2022, which is exclusively presented each year at FreshForward, found that about 40% of total online sales in food retail are generated by the perimeter and fresh foods. While that finding is impressive, there’s a lot more progress that can be made. And the goal isn’t just to boost ecommerce, but to help retailers lift their overall businesses, from online to in-store.

2. Meal Planning and Fresh Foods

Consumer meal habits have been changing ever since the COVID-19 pandemic period began.

The Power of Foodservice at Retail 2022 research identifies the prevalence of hybrid meal planning strategies, especially for dinner. These strategies include consumers’ desire to plan a meal and find solutions that meet their needs. This includes cooking from scratch to buying eating out, to combining cooking from scratch with portions already prepared. The industry needs to help consumers find solutions and drive partnerships to make progress.

3. Gen Z and Fresh Foods

It’s essential to figure out how the industry can better engage with Gen Z consumers and workers. The Power of Foodservice at Retail 2022 found that 18% of shoppers make special trips to grocery stores for deli-prepared foods. About two-thirds of this group are Gen Z or Millennials. Understanding their buying preferences will help the industry turn younger shoppers into long-term fresh foods customers at retail. The industry also has an opportunity to recruit more members of Gen Z into its ranks as associates, a great strategy for ensuring a robust future.

Making Progress Through Collaboration

FreshForward will take a deep dive into the three topics outlined here and is designed to help foster collaboration between senior-level retailers, suppliers, and service providers to enhance success. Collaboration is more important than ever because companies in this industry can no longer do everything by themselves. A signature feature of FreshForward is its facilitated breakout groups of attendees who collaboratively identify key action steps to pursue for each topic track. Attendees will receive a FreshForward Action Guide after the event that aggregates all the key action steps.

Registration has just opened for FreshForward 2023, which will take place from August 8 to 10 in Denver, Colorado. I look forward to seeing you at the conference to engage in all the important fresh foods conversations.

Register for FreshForward