Consumers Snack More: Produce Pitch Must Shift

Opinion

Originally printed in the February 2018 issue of Produce Business.

This past year, consumers reported for the first time eating more during snack time than at mealtime. This change presents a big opportunity for produce and retail as people look for healthier options, but only if we as an industry harness this potential by evolving our perspective and methods.

Snacking as a major trend continues to explode. On Google, searches for the term “healthy snacks” have tripled in the past decade. And, it’s not just about the afternoon snack anymore. Snacking occasions have grown as people incorporate breakfast, afternoon and late-night snack times. This past year, the Wall Street Journal’s What’s News program outlined how people are eating two breakfasts and highlighted pistachios as a “second breakfast” item. At night, consumers may enjoy a glass of pomegranate or cherry juice instead of wine. And, though current statistics report an average snacking of three times per day, we forecast this to grow more in the future.

However, consumers also report needing help finding snacks to meet their needs. In a recent Nielsen study, 63 percent of people reported trying to eat healthier, yet 72 percent reported they can’t always do it. As consumers search out healthy, convenient snack options, they increasingly look to retailers for help. Retailers can turn to the produce industry to offer truly healthy solutions. Produce has the opportunity to lead this movement by empowering options and accessibility to natural, healthy and fresh snacks throughout the store.

As the produce industry capitalizes on the trend, merchandising and in-store displays become more crucial. Shoppers need to be educated on produce as a snack alternative, and options must be visible to stimulate purchases. It comes down to getting appropriate snack options off the typical produce table and into different places throughout the store where consumers will notice and understand their value.

This is one reason why here at The Wonderful Company, our stand-alone Wonderful Pistachios and Wonderful Halos displays at retail are a major focus. Such displays allow the retailer flexibility in placing produce as a snacking option in deli, store entrances, checkout and even the pharmacy. In fact, a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found 80 percent of shoppers say they want healthier options at checkout. Checkout presents tremendous potential to offer healthier snacks, especially produce. Case in point: we’ve seen stores where Halos sales velocity doubles when showcased in our Grove of Goodness displays compared to those that are not using the displays.

Offering visible, healthy snacking options not only spurs sales, but also positions a retailer as offering solutions for something customers seek. A successful retail store increasingly will be one where customers perceive “this place gives me good, healthy options.” By putting mandarins, nuts or apple slices next to the checkout, a retailer says to its customer, “I hear you and am responding.” Winning retailers will be ones who get aggressive and put healthy produce options in places they haven’t been in the past.

Though produce may never compete with the big advertising budgets of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) giants, we can effectively reach customers via in-store communication. We offer health and natural goodness where other snack items don’t and can utilize our packaging to get this message out. Consumers want healthier options, but they also want products with personality — it’s what they’re used to from the CPG companies. They want a connection with what they buy.

So, in addition to just providing the opportunity with a bin of apples or nuts, we need to use our packaging and displays as billboards. You see this evidenced in what we’ve done with pistachios by designing high graphic bins and packaging to really click with consumers.

Produce has tremendous potential to take a leadership position and own this emerging segment.

Obviously, The Wonderful Company is focused on promoting Wonderful Halos, Wonderful Pistachios, POM Wonderful juice and POM POMS fresh arils, but there is great opportunity in many other produce items, including bananas, cherry tomatoes, cut fruit, pre-sliced or small-sized apples and avocados.

Suppliers, marketers and retailers must collaborate to offer greater snacking options throughout the store, thinking off-the-produce-table and out-of-the-department. Consumers have switched how they eat, but our produce merchandising focus remains much the same. Yes, we still need the full displays of apples, tomatoes and lettuce, but we also need to create areas that respond to changing eating patterns and occasions. Perhaps a ‘healthy snacking center’ within stores that showcase the wide array of healthy options, including produce, becomes a solution to fill the snack gap and help consumers reshape how they identify and select snacks.

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