The Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) released its annual What’s New? 2023 consumer research at Southern Innovations held last week in Charlotte, NC.
“Only one-third of consumers tend to consume fresh produce every day,” said David Sherrod, president and CEO of the SEPC. “Additionally, 51 percent readily admit that they find it hard to reach the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables or are unsure what that amount even is. That means current consumption patterns leave ample room for growth for fresh while recognizing the tough economic marketplace. We studied the big consumer-driven sales trends to understand how innovations within each area may reveal pockets of growth for the remainder of the year, going into 2024.”
The top findings for each of the trends in the research include:
- Fresh produce promotions are powerful in the current climate, able to steer consumers to a different type of produce (73 percent), make an unplanned purchase (71 percent) or visit a different store (61 percent).
- Consumers are more hesitant to buy a fruit or vegetable they have never had before, recognizing routine is a big purchasing factor in fresh produce (47 percent) along with not wanting to risk buyer’s remorse (38 percent).
Health and Wellbeing
- Two-thirds of consumers place some or a lot of focus on making healthy food and beverage choices in general and 77 percent agree that physical health and emotional wellbeing are interwoven.
- 76 percent of consumers buy produce items specifically for their known health benefits with Vitamin C as the big top-of-mind nutrient.
Planet and People
- 83 percent of consumers believe grocery stores and restaurants should aim to reduce single-use plastic.
- 82 percent are interested in knowing more about the who, where and how of store-bought produce with a key communication role for the package label and websites.
- Consumers are somewhat de-emphasizing convenience in their purchase decisions while highlighting health, taste and value. Interest in value-added solutions is down a little compared to last year.
- Consumers are also finding convenience in smoothies, squeeze pouches, shots and supplements, especially younger generations.
- Routine meals are making a comeback, but digital remains a big source of meal inspiration and tips, led by recipe websites (39 percent of consumers), YouTube (28 percent), Facebook (26 percent) and other big social media platforms.
- Already, 5 percent of consumers use artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT for meal planning.
The online study among 1,887 consumers was conducted and presented by 210 Analytics. The study was fielded in August 2023. A complete copy of the findings can be requested by contacting Anna Burch at SEPC.