NEW ORLEANS — Sales data, consumer habits and economic trends look familiar in a way that could make consumers uneasy.

Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The perishables Group, Chicago, said 2011 looks eerily similar to 2008.

Lutz led the “What Loyalty Card Data Tells Us About Consumer Habits” presentation at United Fresh 2011 May 3 and outlined six key trends to watch for in the coming year:

  • Fresh foods drive supermarket growth, with sales of fresh produce up 3.2% over the past 52 weeks;
  • Produce drives sales. Shoppers who purchased fresh produce averaged 31 trips per year, and 43% of them had multiple items in their carts;
  • Convenience items and prepared foods will gain in popularity;
  • Organic produce is reenergized, particularly in salad, berries, apples and tomatoes;
  • Product mixes will continue to expand, with an average of 622 items in stores, up 3% since 2009; and
  • Food inflation could become a problem for shoppers.

With retail prices going up, along with fuel prices for consumers, Lutz said consumers aren’t finding the same value in promotions they saw during the height of the recession.

Promotional prices for fresh produce ads went up 3.8% over the past year while volumes declined 2.8%, Lutz said. Items like bagged salad, tomatoes, lettuce and bananas are seeing less ad space.

While consumers were extremely price sensitive during the recession, the current data points to shoppers looking for value for dollar more than price alone, Lutz said.

Retail trends to watch include organic, inflation, convenience