Destination Produce: How to Make the Department the Center of Attention

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of Produce Business.

Consumers may be doing more with less in many parts of their lives, as inflation lingers above typical levels, but their produce-buying habits are staying steady, and they are buying more types of fruits and vegetables.

Anecdotally, you can see that play out in the grocery store, as produce departments remain relatively brisk, and displays include a growing array of options. New research backs up those trends, with supporting data from The Power of Produce 2024, published by FMI — The Food Industry Association.

According to this year’s report, produce as a category didn’t have some of the big swings in prices as other areas did. Inflation stayed consistent. Volume and unit sales were stable last year, and mild inflation helped boost dollar sales to a record $76.4 billion.

Compared to other categories, it was a good year for produce. The latest Power of Produce study shows fresh produce was among the strongest-performing departments in traditional grocery, and volume sales were above pre-pandemic levels.

If that’s heartening news for those who provide and sell produce, other Power of Produce findings point to more bright spots. Customers are still attracted to variety, for example, and are open to mixing up their daily routines. More than half (51%) of produce shoppers say they would appreciate tips on how to incorporate fresh fruit and snacking into their day.

Within the overall category, some products are faring especially well. The berry segment, for example, is in high-growth mode. According to the Power of Produce, berry sales were more than twice that of the second most popular fruit, apples. Dollar sales of berries reached $9 billion, up 5% from a year ago and 13% higher than two years ago.

Within produce, some products are faring well. The berry segment, for example, is in
high-growth mode.

Berries are a go-to fruit for a variety of reasons. I sometimes joke that berries are “the chicken of the produce department,” because they are so versatile, popular and reliable. From breakfast smoothies to glazes for meats to pies, berries can be a part of every daypart. These fruits are also rich in many nutrients, which give them a health and wellness halo.

There are more success stories to be had. As inflation continues to ease this year and as shoppers have shown preferences for certain types of fruits and more eating occasions, growers and grocers can open new avenues for growth in a variety of ways:

  • Keep spotlighting products that resonate with shoppers, such as berries. Provide recipes and usage tips for perennially popular berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and promote more and new varieties of berries, from white strawberries to large blackberries to goji berries. Highlight locally sourced and in-season berries.
  • Share suggestions for how to add fresh fruit and vegetables to more meal occasions, particularly snacking. Frozen berries can make delicious snacks, for instance, and sliced cucumbers are a classic between-meal snack.
  • Cross-merchandise fresh fruit and vegetables to lift unit and dollar sales. One idea is to offer salad kits in prepared foods areas, where convenience-minded consumers are looking for fast solutions.
  • While it’s great to have steady sales even in a price- and value-centric environment, raise the bar and make your fresh produce area a destination, with merchandising excellence and creative, relevant displays, including secondary displays.
  • Link shoppers’ interest in variety with efforts to reduce food waste by offering different portion sizes and explaining how to maximize freshness.
  • To optimize messaging effectiveness, leverage technologies that allow you to reach consumers wherever they are on their shopping journey, whether in-store or online. Let them know when fresh produce is on sale or when seasonal items are arriving from local growers. Offer QR codes so people can learn more about the types of fresh produce you carry, access nutrition information, and discover farms and orchards where fruits and vegetables come from and who grows them.

Pursuing these and other opportunities can boost purchase consumption frequency and widen the shopper base for fresh produce, which ultimately leads to a more popular and profitable department in a highly competitive, multi-channel marketplace. In the meantime, you can gain more insights from the Power of Produce 2024 by visiting

Rick Stein is vice president, Fresh Foods for FMI — The Food Industry Association in Washington, D.C. Find Fresh Foods resources at