Consumers have been returning to supermarkets during the recession in order to cut food costs. Marketing programs for supermarkets also emphasize another benefit – healthier products. Between 2008 and 2009, Nielsen reported a significant increase in the sales of fresh produce at food/drug/mass artichokemerchandiser stores.

  • Fresh Produce Department Sales: +3.4%
  • Fresh Fruit Sales: +12.5%
  • Fresh Strawberries: +6.7%
  • Fresh Lettuce: 8.1%

One statistic that shows consumers’ willingness to prepare more food for themselves was the 3.6% equivalized unit volume drop in precut salad mix.

Restaurant operators have also noticed the trend of healthier eating by consumers and we’ve highlighted a number of studies in our blog posts during the past couple of weeks on this topic. Specifically, food service operators are introducing new ethnic dishes and innovative flavors as a way to drive traffic. They are also introducing healthier kids’ meals to keep moms happy. And, as the Nielsen numbers indicate, restaurants are hoping a shift to fresh produce will increase traffic:

  • Restaurant operators who want more fresh produce options: 67%
  • Restaurant operators who want more information on how to successfully include fresh produce into their offerings: 60%
  • Restaurant operators who plan to add fresh produce to their menus: 41%

A recent article in Facts, Figures & the Future suggested that supermarkets could maintain market share by offering recipes that encourage people to mix fresh produce with staples for more exciting meals. Restaurants are clearly interested in a similar approach and may be able to build traffic by serving unapproachable vegetables such as artichokes in new recipes. In either case, both industries will clearly be increasing their marketing efforts to win the consumers’ dollar.

[Source: Restaurants lean on produce for competitive vigor, Facts, Figures, and the Future, September 2009]