Grocery Brand Equity Study Reveals Fresh Produce Brand Drivers

Originally printed in the November 2021 issue of Produce Business.

When it comes to produce, the shopping decision process is not clear. Unlike packaged food, the label is not always prominent or recognizable. The question is, how do people select which fruits and vegetables to put in their shopping carts? When it comes to fresh produce, are there certain brands that are top-of-mind? And finally, what does the typical grocery shopper think about price, freshness, and brand loyalty? Knowing this information can help produce brands better position themselves in the shopping aisles.

In September 2021, Provoke Insights, a market research and brand consultancy firm, set out to answer these questions and more. Provoke Insights conducted a 15-minute survey among 1,500 U.S. consumers. Sampling was matched to reflect the U.S. population to ensure a high degree of representation of the U.S. population (household income, age, gender, geography, and children in the household). Statistical differences between subgroups were tested at a 95% confidence level. Below are highlights of the findings:

The Frequent Grocery Shopper

The vast majority of Americans (99%) consider themselves the primary or shared household grocery shopper. Consumers are purchasing fresh fruits and veggies more than ever. The majority (90%) stop by the produce section at least once per week.

More so, almost half (44%) buy freshly picked goods at least once every few days. These high-frequency shoppers are, unsurprisingly, parents who are employed. These frequent purchasers more likely have children in the household (53%), are employed (65%), and are comprised of the Millennial generation (50%).

Where one lives is critical of how often someone shops for these fruits and veggies. Those who live in urban areas are more likely to purchase fresh produce more frequently. Think: a working mom or dad stopping at the grocery store on their way home from work to pick out vegetables for a home-cooked meal, or fruit for a kid-friendly school lunch. Time is of the essence for these working parents, so they most likely are in a rush when shopping. Given the time crunch of this cohort’s shopping trip, produce brands need to stand out amongst the competition.

Factors in the Produce Decision Journey

When it comes to gaining brand familiarity and loyalty amongst shoppers, brand name is not the largest influencer when it comes to produce selection. Almost half of grocery purchasers (44%) cannot conjure up a brand name when unprompted.

Instead, household shoppers most often look for freshness. One of the most important factors in purchasing starts with the quality of the product; almost two-thirds (64%) of shoppers look specifically for signs of freshness. They may ask themselves, “How crisp is this apple?” or, “How long will this lettuce last in my fridge?” Women more often seek freshness (68%) compared to men (61%). By highlighting the freshness, quality, or of the product in advertising, shoppers can walk into the store with brands in mind that will fit this need.

Just under one-third of shoppers are tried-and-true to fresh produce brands. Unprompted, Dole overwhelmingly leads in brand awareness (29%), followed by Chiquita (6%), Del Monte (4%), Green Giant (2%), and Kroger (1%).

These shoppers may look to these brands most, as they have a strong affinity regardless of price or freshness. Geography is a contributing factor to loyalty, with 35% of city-dwellers ranking brand name as a top decision factor compared to suburban (28%) or rural residents (27%). Those who seek specific brands of produce also tend to be more optimistic (31%). In-store branding should be targeted in urban areas, as these consumers tend to be more loyal.

Price comes in last for most grocery shoppers, with only 15% saying they look for the cheapest price every time. Unsurprisingly, those who strongly consider price are significantly likely to be from Generation Z (22%) or have a yearly household income under $50,000 (22%). Think: college students looking to whip up a meal on a budget. A quarter of those with a household income under $50,000 also look to store brands (private label). These groups are looking to get their daily servings of fruits and vegetables on a budget.

Recommendations

There is little overall awareness of fresh fruit and vegetable brands. To better connect with frequent shoppers, brands should take steps to stand out, raise brand awareness, and focus on freshness.

Provoke Insights is a full-service global market research and brand strategy firm. As a builder of brands, the firm solely focuses on research for branding, advertising, and content marketing initiatives. Provoke Insights empowers brands with the insights they need to navigate the cluttered marketing space and improve ROI.