Our millennial generation is finding other sources from which to purchase their fresh produce. According to a 2019 Power of Produce survey by the Food Marketing Institute, only 34% of millennials stated that a supermarket was their primary source for fresh produce. Millennials represent a fairly large demographic: age 24-39.

The survey states, rather bluntly, that the $60 billion grocery category is losing momentum to other retail options, including subscription services, farmers’ markets, and convenience stores:

  • Subscription services such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Dinnerly and others are sprouting up both nationally and locally. Such meal delivery services have become popular lately because of the COVID-19 scare, alleviating fears about risking exposure at the grocery store. Fortunately, retailers have mobilized quickly to offer or increase grocery delivery services. This popular choice may remain high as consumers of all generations are getting used to the convenience of everything delivered.
  • Convenience also competes with local, however. Many in this age bracket want to support local farms and visit the farmers’ market to purchase the freshest produce and other local products.
  • Convenience stores are gaining popularity among millennial and younger generations. The grab-and-go appeal coupled with minimal to no checkout lines and simplified options make convenience stores a triple win for this demographic. Typical convenience stores do not have the produce inventory as a supermarket does – yet. With the introduction of Amazon Go, convenience stores could take advantage of a new and more profitable model that serves this growing unmet need.

The survey did shed some helpful light on what millennials actually want from grocery retailers. 

Emphasize “Local Produce”

Fifty-three percent of survey respondents want expanded local assortment at the stores.

The definition of “local” has a wide range which is typically is an 88-mile radius. Do retailers need to develop their own consistent and store-wide definition of local? What does local mean to a shopper? This can vary person-to-person. It can also vary according to where certain fruits and vegetables are grown. When it comes to table grapes, for example, “California-grown” is as local as it gets! Ninety-nine percent of table grapes are grown in the Coachella and San Joaquin Valleys. 

So…That Part about “Quick Fix?”

Fifty-three percent is a strong hint to make retailers seriously consider a simple “show & tell” method.

Information cards showing a picture of the grower, blurb about the family’s legacy of growing their particular crop, and the land on which it is grown can transform a common commodity into a rich and meaningful story. Such cards (which are already dotting displays of peaches, nectarines and other seasonal produce) create a connection between shopper and grower – that very connection they are seeking to fulfill at the farmers market. Shoppers outside the millennial bracket share this preference for locally grown, with domestic produce generally favored over imported. Setting up a store with a good variety of fresh local produce with a simple yet attention-grabbing information card, can help the shopper in their decision making.

Consumers are also concerned about how produce is grown, food safety (amidst produce recalls) and the grower’s carbon footprint. Each of these concerns can be addressed in bullet points on the grower’s card.

Beyond the “quick fix,” there are creative measures a retailer can take, such as a “grow wall” exhibit that might enhance the shopper’s experience and encourage healthy buying habits. 

The study found that consumers are showing interest in learning more about bee health and pesticide use claims. It seems there is never too much information when it comes to debunking myths and promoting consumer safety. Reassuringly, the study also indicates that younger shoppers lead the way in wanting more information with millennials having the most interest in learning. So let’s give it to them!

As shoppers’ interests continue to expand, it’s important to understand what topics are truly the most important to your consumer. The loudest voices are not always the most numerous and dedicated research to understand their motivations can inform how, when and why to adapt with these changing times.

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