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While households of all sizes, ages, incomes, and ethnicities typically buy potatoes at least once a year, for instance, there is less engagement among one-person households, Gen Z (ages 18 to 26) and Asian shoppers.

Diverse demographics add complexity to produce merchandising

Retailers must respond to the divergent interests of varying shopper bases

A disparate produce buyer landscape is making the efficient merchandising of fruits and vegetables more complicated.

With hundreds of possible produce varieties to market, and consumer interests and purchasing behavior varying by such factors as age, income, ethnicity, region, and household size, retailers face the arduous task of determining the ideal product mix while tailoring selections to the specific shopper bases of each location, said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC, a San Antonio-based market research and marketing strategies firm and author of the Power of Produce 2024 report, published by the Arlington, Va.-based FMI—The Food Association.

Analyzing a location’s consumer base and their historical purchasing patterns is particularly important if merchandisers are to respond to varying shopper interests, she said. Higher-income shoppers, for instance, typically purchase more organic and value-added selections; Boomers (aged 59 to 75), frequently cook from scratch and seek more produce ingredients while buying a wider variety of items and over-indexing in their purchase of staples; Millennials (aged 27 to 42) are core value-added buyers and like to experiment with newer items, such as novel salad mixes and hybrids, and over-index for organics.

There is also variance within product categories. While households of all sizes, ages, incomes, and ethnicities typically buy potatoes at least once a year, for instance, there is less engagement among one-person households, Gen Z (ages 18 to 26) and Asian shoppers, Roerink said. Regionally, sales of red potatoes over-index in the Southeast while yellow potatoes over-index in the West, she said.

In addition, mushroom purchasing over-indexes among Asian households, Boomers, and higher-income consumers. While those who buy mushrooms just once or twice a year tend to purchase white mushrooms, frequent buyers often select a variety of items, including cremini, shiitake, and other specialty mushrooms, Roerink said. 

Shopper attitudes towards the wellness elements of produce also differ, she said. “Boomers simply see fruits and vegetables as an overall healthy choice, while younger generations tend to seek specific benefits and nutrients,” she said. “This has led to a wide variety of package callouts, such as vitamin C for immunity or vitamin B for energy and mimics the strategy of merchandisers of smoothies and functional beverage shots, powders, and shakes, a segment that has exploded over the past few years.”

Aligning assortments to the interests of audiences in each neighborhood also can encourage trial, Roerink said. “The wider the number of items purchased, the more engaged people tend to become with the department,” she said.


 

 

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