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2018 Category Guide: Vegetables

This is part of Supermarket News’ 2018 Category Guide to fresh and center store categories.

There’s green in those greens — fresh vegetables, that is, particularly prepackaged salad and value-added vegetables, both of which contributed healthy shares to the category’s $35.1 billion in dollar sales for the 52 weeks ending June 30, according to Nielsen data.

Sales of prepackaged salads rose 2.5% and continued to dominate the fresh vegetable category with $4.6 billion in sales, while value-added vegetables contributed $1.2 billion, an increase of 7.7%, reported Nielsen.

The common factor of both those produce items is convenience, which increasingly is the determining factor in fresh purchases. As Maria Brous, director of media & community relations for ‎Publix Super Markets, pointed out, “Convenience continues to drive purchasing decisions in this category, so customers continue to look for bagged, chopped, ready-to-eat options such as our bag mixes of American and Italian salad blends. This trend is more mainstream.”

As for value-added vegetables, Vic Savanello, director of produce and floral at Allegiance Retail Services, Iselin, N.J., points to kale and other leafy greens as an example. “Different varieties of kale, and organic varieties especially, are still pushing the needle positive,” he said. “The thing I am doing, as is most of the market, is looking at more value-added versions of leafy greens. Mixes and blends, bagged and clam shelled, chopped and with kit ingredients, to make a side dish or even create an entrée. This seems to be the segment where this category has seen growth and future potential.”

In addition to convenience, fresh vegetables are also experiencing growth due to the rise of organics and the success of branded produce, which now accounts for more than a third of the entire produce category, according to Nielsen. Branded products are succeeding in part by offering convenience and through labeling claims that address consumer interest in health and wellness, Nielsen said, pointing to changes in overall shopping behavior.

"It's critical [for retailers] to shift from category management to consumer management by thinking about products in terms of the needs they solve as a consumer shops,” noted Matt Lally, associate director, Nielsen’s Fresh Growth & Strategy Team. “Take salads, for example. Prepackaged salads are now one of the highest-selling items in the produce department and have achieved rapid growth over the past several years. Yet consumers also have the option of visiting the deli salad bar, buying premade salads from the deli service case or buying raw lettuce and making their own salad.”

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