Inspire shoppers with ideas, health, convenience
Retailers that want to maintain the significant produce sales growth driven by pandemic stay-at-home eating must inspire shoppers with new ideas and provide easy solutions for at-home eating occasions.
So said a panel of experts at a May 20 PMA™ Retail with the Experts Webinar: Occasion Marketing and Seasonal Merchandising – Identifying New Opportunities.
- Adam Brady, Director of Marketing, Shuman Farms
- Alyson Dias, VP Advertising & Digital Media, California Table Grape Commission
- Karen Nardozza, President/CEO, Moxxy Marketing
- Vic Savanello, VP Produce and Floral Merchandising, SpartanNash
- Anne Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics
- Joe Watson, VP Membership & Engagement, PMA
Although spring produce sales dropped from year-ago sales, they were still well above 2019 numbers — the "pre-pandemic normal." Convenience items remain strong sellers, and more in-store shopping will favor fresh. The trend toward eating more meals at home is expected to continue, even as more restaurants reopen and home meal boredom persists.
Participants reflected on how the full supply chain can maintain and accelerate greater retail produce sales by tapping into occasion marketing. They noted that holiday marketing, including the summer holidays, is in every produce marketer's DNA. But the opportunities around occasion marketing are new, especially understanding how "occasions" have transformed in the past 18 months.
Data shows that only 14% of consumers turn to their grocery stores for meal inspiration, offering a huge opportunity to connect with their shoppers and inspire their at-home food experiences.
Micro-burst trends on social media (i.e. TikTok videos) can clean out a store as they take off. Tie into that or create your own. Not only do consumers respond to foodie trends on social media, they are creating their own culinary masterpieces and sharing those with friends, family, and on social. These consumers consider themselves foodies, part of the cooking community, and they are starving for new, fresh, updated meal and snack suggestions.
Consumers are more committed to convenience products than ever, and retailers are expanding fresh-cut, even leaning toward family sizes. Offer convenience foods, meal kits, grab-and-go, and items ready to eat, heat or cook. Use signage to suggest ingredients for a quick, easy meal. When creating meal or snacking solutions, partner with other items in the store (meat, dairy, bakery) and be sure to include multiple produce items.
From the concerns about the virus to concerns about having gained the COVID-19 pounds, consumers are focused on health more than ever. Engage them around detailed health benefits of specific fresh produce commodities as they look to boost their immune systems, lose weight, and improve their overall health.
Digital offers greater reach and opportunities — use it for recipes, meal or snack suggestions, showcasing the ease of grab-and-go. Retail banner ads are the new point of sale when it comes to online marketing. But don't neglect traditional print ads (pump them up with more glamour shots and meal-bundling options). And as shoppers return to the stores, in-store merchandising can highlight solutions, inspire new ideas and drive impulse sales. Packaging is important here — it should "scream" fresh and healthy to attract shopper attention and drive sales.
Consumer research from both the supply side and retail is essential to inform decisions — store scan data, consumer focus groups and more. Though it may seem daunting, research will help marketers hone messages and identify opportunities for new items or new occasions.
Suppliers and retailers can inspire consumers to greater purchases by suggesting occasions, offering new products, and recommending new uses for staples. Introduce tropical fruits with a fresh-cut "fiesta bowl." Suggest new ideas, like grapes in homemade popsicles, adding mushrooms and carrots to a traditional seafood boil. Showcase items consumers see as seasonal in nontraditional seasons (summer fruit used in fall recipes). Suggest new items to shoppers like major online marketers do: If you like X, you'll like Y.
As part of its retail portfolio, PMA offers this ongoing series, Retail With the Experts, on a variety of topics.
"If we don't win on produce, we don't win."
“Retail with the Experts: Outlook on 2021” gave PMA™ members first access to retail data and marketing insights during a Feb. 25 webinar. Speakers addressed the strong U.S. retail produce performance of 2020 and looked ahead to 2021 – from experience marketing to innovation to cross-promotions.
Four experts in retail performance and marketing joined PMA vice president Joe Watson:
- Anne Marie Roerink, Principal with 210 Analytics
- Melina Goodman, President of Full Tilt Marketing
- Dennis Host, Vice President of Marketing for Coborn’s
- Shawn Peery, Vice President of Produce/Floral for Albertsons
Data points: 2020 sales were strong
"Health will motivate consumers -- anything with Vitamin C is on fire."
- In terms of 2020 performance, sales were up double-digits across dollars, units, and volume – despite the fact retailers pulled promotions during the early days of the pandemic.
- Household penetration remained at nearly 100%. Although trips to the store were down due to pandemic fears and public health restrictions, a higher percentage of shoppers were buying produce, and they spent more per trip.
- Shopping trends included: desire for longer shelf life and packaged produce (fewer “touches” and convenience).
Beyond the data
- Marketing/merchandising: Greater focus on capturing impulse buys online and in-store. Produce will remain in first position – in store, in ads, online, etc. Organics and the plant-forward trend will continue to thrive.
- Experience shopping: Differentiation, innovation and experience will rule the day with shoppers. Retailers must help consumers succeed with food, especially produce.
- Consumers: New habits will persist, and health will continue to motivate them. This bodes well for fresh produce provided consumers understand which items feature which benefits.
Stay tuned for additional PMA offerings on retail insights:
PMA InSite is launching soon. It’s an interactive tool with access to multiple data sources and makes them come alive (including retail sales and consumer insights). Add your data to create company-specific reports to benchmark your performance and inform your plans. Learn more.
We have partnered with 210 Analytics and IRI to analyze retail produce sales by dollars and volume, for use by both retailers and suppliers.
For more details on these takeaways, PMA members can log in to view the recording below. Not yet a member? You can get more information and join here. If you have any questions, please email Joe Watson at [email protected].