To keep its product mix on the cutting edge and attuned to customers’ changing tastes, The Fresh Market has teamed up with New York-based venture studio 25madison to help identify and showcase innovative food and beverage offerings.
The Fresh Market said the partnership, announced this week, comes as it watches for food trends not just for next year but also into 2021. The Greensboro, N.C.-based natural and organic grocer noted that 25madison will help it stay “on the pulse” of early-stage consumer companies and brands that could disrupt or create market trends.
“Our mission is to inspire our guests to make everyday eating extraordinary, and to uphold this, we have extremely high standards for the products or brands that ultimately make it into our store,” according to Dwight Richmond, director of center store merchandising at The Fresh Market, which has 159 stores in 22 states.
Because The Fresh Market’s specialty food curators procure products months ahead of when consumers see the items on shelves, they must stay ahead of the curve on what customers will be shopping for well in advance, the retailer said. In making their buying decisions, curators need to know about what’s trending at restaurants, innovative cuisine, health and wellness trends, growing practices, ingredient quality and traceability.
Once products or categories of interest are identified, The Fresh Market said its merchandisers then hold “cuttings” of various brands or suppliers to determine the best-tasting, highest quality items in those segments.
“Some examples of new products that were big hits in 2019, based on trends, were Beyond Burgers and Caulipower Pizza (plant-based), Haku Shoyu and Fillos Sofritos Beans (authentically ethnic), and a host of functional beverages, like kombucha and keto protein drinks,” Richmond said.
As a business incubator, 25madison will work with The Fresh Market to flag up-and-coming food and beverage players and invest in these early-stage businesses.
“We are excited to partner with The Fresh Market to help identify, build and invest in disruptive businesses,” Steven Price, CEO of 25madison, said in a statement. “By teaming up with The Fresh Market, we can create a competitive edge for our companies, leveraging unique consumer insights and distribution in 159 stores. This strategic partnership will help The Fresh Market’s customers discover and shop for new and innovative brands.”
Looking ahead to 2020, The Fresh Market predicted that top food trends will include products limiting sugar intake (such as SmartSweets, a candy line that’s low-sugar and has no artificial sweeteners); seed-based foods (such as Three Trees Black Sesame Nut & Seed Milk, Base Culture Nut & Seed bread and La Tourangelle tahini dressing); more plant-based options (such as RightRice, which blends lentils, peas, chickpeas and rice for added protein and fiber but reduced carbs); and Functional beverages “sans alcohol” (such as H2OPS, a sparkling hop water brewed like a craft beer, and Napa Hills Vineyard Enriched Waters, which provides delivers the antioxidant benefits of a glass of red wine without the calories, sugar or alcohol).
Customers, too, will continue to seek products with more transparency and sustainability, The Fresh Market said. For example, the chain added products from EPIC Provisions, which offers sustainably sourced 100% grass-fed meat bars, animal cooking fats and snacks. The grocer also went to all cage-free eggs in 2019 and expanded its 100% grass-fed dairy offerings. And in the area of food waste reduction, The Fresh Market said its store-prepared Market Meal Kits contain two portioned, easy-to-cook servings, resulting in no food or ingredient waste.
“We are entering a phase where consumers want to understand the full life-cycle of a food product, from where and how it was grown, why it is better nutritionally and better for the environment,” Richmond added.