Are we ready to come out into the light and face the new reality?

Consumers seek quality, value in produce

Pamela Riemenscheider
Aisle Wandering

The economy of the past two years has a lot of consumer shell-shocked, defensive and downright tightfisted with their money.

How are we recovering?  How has consumer spending changed as people have gotten their wakeup call that their footloose and fancy-free spending is not, dare I say, sustainable?

Produce Merchandising and the Perishables Group want to help you navigate the new consumer reality.

January’s issue features the first of a six-part report about consumer spending as we come out of the recession.

The Perishables Group’s research provides an in-depth study of consumer purchase patterns throughout 2008 and 2009 and finds that fresh food consumers have “begun to implement a number of primary strategies to squeeze the most value out of their dollars.”

In fact, only 11% of consumers said they weren’t doing anything to cut costs.

But what were the primary drivers for purchase? Was price the No. 1 factor?

The Perishables Group says no. Price ranked second to quality among the 6,000 fresh food customers surveyed.

Shoppers are price-sensitive when it comes to convenience items, with more than 25% saying they only purchase convenience items when the price is right.

Price points

That goes right along with something I heard while on the retail tour at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in Anaheim, Calif.

Roger Schroeder, vice president of produce for San Bernadino, Calif.-based Stater Bros. Markets, said there’s a price point at which value-added and convenience items live or die.

It has to be under $4, he said, or it just doesn’t move.

Though they may have said they’ve got quality on the mind, shoppers aren’t forgetting about their pocketbooks.

Nearly 40% reported they’re shopping with a list more often than they did a year ago, and more than half said they now purchase fresh produce on sale more than they did a year ago.

Bargain shopping and switching to a value-oriented store platform also became more common over the past year.

A third of respondents shop at supercenters for produce more often and 21% said they shop produce markets, like a farmers market, more often.

This is all fascinating research, and is exclusive to Produce Merchandising.

Be sure to check it out at


What's your take on how consumer buying habits have changed during the recession? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.