New Year’s resolutions will be top of mind for shoppers as they browse the store—leading them right to the produce department.
Old habits die hard, but a new year provides a fresh start for people resolved to break the pattern of the habits they would like to change or improve upon. Nearly half of consumers will make a New Year’s resolution, yet less than 10 percent will succeed in achieving their goals, according to some estimates.
The most common resolutions like losing weight, eating better and staying fit and healthy require a strong mind and discipline. Grocers can offer some support and inspiration to help shoppers stay on track. Industry observers suggest that in order to do that, retailers should have an understanding of the specific healthy habits consumers want to adopt this year.
“With regards to food, consumers will be looking for fresh, less-processed, and/or organic options, which will steer them toward the perimeter of the store,” says Alison Kellogg, brand manager for Litehouse, based in Sandpoint, Idaho. “Eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins will be emphasized over eating non-fat versions of more processed foods.”
Some observers believe consumers will take their health and wellness resolutions a step further than just eating more produce. Grocers can expect more consumers to focus on cutting out specific ingredients or consuming foods that promote certain health benefits. “We do see that within the goals of ‘eating more produce’ or ‘exercising more,’ the trends do change,” says Kathy Stephenson, communications director for Pear Bureau Northwest, based in Portland, Ore. “Next year, we anticipate seeing more focus on plant protein and probiotics. We think ‘gut health’ is an extremely important topic for all consumers and know pears are an added supporter of good gut health.”
Stephanie Harralson, senior product manager for Sunsweet Growers, based in Yuba City, Calif., also anticipates that consumers will focus on gut health in 2017. “Gut health continues to be important with new emphasis on microbiome—each individual’s bacterial chemistry in their own body,” she says. “Prunes are well known for gut health, and the prebiotics in prunes, along with both soluble and insoluble fiber, contribute to the healthy microbiome.”
Sunsweet offers in-store shippers with Ones, Individually Wrapped Prunes, which are a popular grab-and-go item during the January through March timeframe as consumers look for healthy snacks, Harralson adds.
As consumers become more aware of the negative effects of processed sugar, added sugar and too much salt, they will look to decrease their intake of these elements in the coming year, says Erin Hanagan-Muths, director of marketing for Yuma, Ariz.-based Bard Valley Date Growers, the grower, packer, shipper and marketer of Natural Delights branded fresh Medjool dates.
“Natural Delights Medjool Dates are in perfect alignment with these values, and our marketing efforts are taking advantage of that,” Hanagan-Muths says. “Medjool dates have 50 percent more potassium by weight than a banana, making them an ideal post-workout muscle recovery snack. They are also a great source of good carbohydrates, fiber and low on the glycemic index, making them ideal for an all-natural sustained energy boost.”
While consumers can find a variety of items in the produce aisle that meet their desire to cut out certain ingredients, they will also shop the section looking for protein or carbohydrate replacements. For example, more consumers are swapping pasta in favor of fresh vegetables, says Jacob Shafer, marketing and communications specialist for Mann Packing Co., based in Salinas, Calif.
“Mann’s has been ahead of the curve with Mann’s Culinary Cuts Butternut Squash Zig Zags and Sweet Potato Ribbons, which are both the perfect replacement for any pasta,” Shafer says. “They are part of a new line of fresh cut vegetables that are distinctively shaped, washed, ready to cook and versatile. Ideal for a pasta swap, these fresh vegetables are all natural, preservative free and gluten-free.”
In part with seeking fruits and vegetables that align with new dietary resolutions, consumers will also want information on where their food comes from and may prefer brands that effectively communicate a farm-to-shelf story. More brands, like NatureSweet, are telling their stories through a variety of consumer campaigns.
“We’ve launched a new campaign, ‘Tomatoes Raised Right,’ which is focused on telling our story from seed to shelf,” says Lori Castillo, brand manager for NatureSweet, based in San Antonio. “In addition, we have a full product traceability code on every package and can identify where every package came from, down to the exact row in each greenhouse, so we can tell consumers exactly where the product comes from.”
Peri & Sons Farms, a Yerington, Nev.-based onion grower, also provides information about where its products are grown on its packaging. “All of our packages provide information about the health benefits of onions along with helpful information sources for recipe ideas, cooking tips, information about our no-GMO and sustainability practices, and more,” says Teri Gibson, director of marketing and customer relations for Peri & Sons Farms. “We offer a variety of package designs, many with seasonal consumer-oriented promotions, to help retailers keep their displays new, colorful and attractive.”
Retailers would be wise to use merchandising displays and marketing communications to remind consumers of which items can help them achieve their healthy resolutions. Steve Lutz, vice president/marketing for CMI Orchards, based in Wenatchee, Wash., says one of the simplest things retailers can do is call out the health/diet benefits of the items they carry in the produce department.
“Once consumers get re-focused on health after the holidays, they start thinking about reducing calories and eating better. The tendency for many shoppers is to direct their attention to the ‘diet/weight’ aisle in center store,” Lutz says. “In the process, these consumers walk right by the healthiest department in the store.
“Retailers need to exploit the post-holiday shift in consumer purchase priorities by calling out the calorie content and health benefits of fruits and vegetables,” Lutz adds.
Promoting healthy food option tie-ins during pop-culture events like the Super Bowl or during awards shows can also help consumers stay on track, says Castillo. “This gives consumers a new way to think about healthy foods and integrate that into parties or other celebrations throughout the year.”