The search for fresh at retail

by Monica Watrous
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NEW YORK — The next big thing in supermarkets may be vegetable butchers, according to Jen Campuzano, director of account services at Nielsen.

Jen Campuzano
Jen Campuzano, director of account services at Nielsen 

“When you walk into the produce department … you could walk up to a vegetable butcher with the vegetables you want to buy, drop them off, go finish your shopping, and by the time you come back, you have all of these chopped vegetables that are ready to go for snacking or cooking,” Campuzano told Food Business News, a sister publication of MEAT+POULTRY.

The concept, already spotted in several stores, stems from a growing personalization trend in perishables. As consumers increasingly seek fresh options in convenient formats, the deli, bakery, meat and seafood, and produce sections are rising to meet the demand, Campuzano said.

“From a health and wellness perspective, we continue to see consumers focusing on and recognizing the value of food as medicine, in helping prevent and manage their health concerns, which goes hand in hand with this increased interest in fresh,” she said. “But at the same time there’s a need for quick solutions, and maybe not necessarily making everything from scratch, but to be able to use convenient solutions within fresh to build better meals at home.”

 Vegetable Butcher
The vegetable butcher concept, already spotted in several stores, stems from a growing personalization trend in perishables. 
 

From 2011 to 2015, the compound annual growth rates for value-added vegetables, including meal-prep vegetables, side dish vegetables, snacking vegetables and vegetable trays, was 15 percent, according to Nielsen. During the same time period, value-added fruit, including fresh-cut fruit, fruit jars and cups, and overwrap fruit, grew 12 percent.

“These are products that make it easier for consumers to grab something on the go for a snack or to cook something at home,” Campuzano said. “Butternut squash is a great example; there’s a lot of prep work involved, but now you can buy it already cubed and ready to throw in your oven to have a quick, healthy meal.”

Pre Cut  
From 2011 to 2015, the compound annual growth rates for value-added vegetables was 15 percent. 
 

In the bakery department, indulgence remains an important factor driving consumer trends; however, portion control is taking center stage. Sales of miniature pies in the past year have increased 21 percent. Brownies and dessert bars, mini cookies and individual dessert cakes (each up about 11 percent) and mini donuts and donut holes (up 7 percent) also are gaining favor, meeting demand for smaller households and varying preferences. Going forward, retailers may consider offering made-to-order treats and live demonstrations that convey the perception of freshness.

Opportunities exist in the meat and seafood department, too, where dollar and volume sales of fully cooked meats increased a mere 1 percent, Campuzano said. Retailers may increase sales by educating consumers on the preparation and health benefits of such products, she said.

 Mini Bakery
In the bakery department, portion control is taking center stage. 
 

“We are seeing in the meat and seafood department options where a consumer can walk up to the meat counter and grab a piece of chicken or fish and have it cooked right there on the spot with seasonings,” she said. “Perfect for smaller households or single households.”

The deli section continues to offer plentiful options for personalization.

“Moving anywhere from the salad bar to the sandwich counter, customers have always been able to personalize in the deli,” Campuzano said. “You can mix and match entrees. We continue to see that grow within the deli prepared space as retailers and manufacturers are developing new flavor profiles to change with the changing consumer palates.”

 
Opportunities exist in the meat and seafood department for retailers to offer cooked an seasoned offerings. 
 

For example, she said, retailers are introducing globally inspired flavors and dishes in addition to the mainstay rotisserie chicken.

“Or a standard salad bar now might have quinoa and kale rather than romaine and spinach,” she said. “You’re starting to see those kinds of evolutions happening to help meet those consumer needs. I think that’s driven by those retailers and manufacturers who really understand their consumer base.

“To be able to personalize requires you to understand your consumers not at a broader retail level but at the store level because it’s going to vary so much from store to store depending on who your shopper base is.”

 Market Deli
The deli section continues to offer plentiful options for personalization. 
 

Heightened competition from new players in the marketplace, such as meal kit delivery services, underscores the importance of offering personalization in perishables, Campuzano said.

“Thinking about how to make it easier for consumers to eat healthier, I think the possibilities could be endless, depending on what retailers and manufacturers can actually execute in-store,” she said. 

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