With two in three consumers reporting more fresh food purchases, retailers are increasing the space allotted to fresh foods in their stores to meet the rise in consumer demand. But despite these trends, total fresh food sales continue to be outpaced in growth compared to overall food sales, creating untapped potential for retailers and manufacturers, according to the Future of Fresh study, which provides key insights into consumer behavior and how manufacturers and retailers can grow the fresh food category. Deloitte surveyed 2,000 consumers and 153 fresh food industry executives to gain deeper insight into fresh food consumers as well as fresh food manufacturers and retailers.

Advanced analysis on U.S. fresh food consumers’ attitudes and behavioral patterns revealed three distinct buying personas:

  • Forwards (31%): Consumers who are very committed to health and wellness, actively choose health over convenience, place a high value on sustainability, and are more willing to pay a premium for fresh foods.
  • Followers (47%): Consumers who display interest in healthier options and sustainability and have a willingness and ability to purchase fresh foods but aren’t as enthusiastic as Forwards.
  • Neutrals (22%): Consumers who show the lowest commitment to health and wellness, prioritizing price and convenience over health.

Much like consumers, companies in the retail and manufacturing space are also embracing the fresh food category at varying levels. When assessing companies on the criteria of percentage of revenue from fresh foods in relation to the annual budget for technology and supporting processes, four types of organizations emerge: Leaders, Learners, Aspirers, and Testers.

Leaders are achieving higher fresh food sales with smaller teams and greater investment in technology and supporting processes. Leaders are more than three times as likely to have a centralized staff for fresh foods (20%) than Learners (6%) and tend to have smaller teams, with 71% having less than 20 people managing their fresh foods categories. Leaders also tend to have a slower growth in fresh food staff with only a 27% annual increase compared to 53% for Learners. Leaders also show more caution when growing their budgets, with a 57% annual increase compared to 79% for Learners.

When it comes to managing fresh foods, manufacturers cite the following challenges: quality control of raw materials on the factory floor (25%), processing (20%), and procurement of raw materials (13%). For retailers, key challenges are spoilage (32%), product pricing (16%), and shelf life (15%). Storage is also a key concern for both manufacturers (20%) and retailers (24%).

“There’s untapped consumer demand and multiple opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to more efficiently provide fresh foods to consumers,” concluded Deloitte’s study. “As Forwards grow older, and their incomes increase, it’s likely their dedication to fresh foods will continue. Additionally, if demand can be stimulated among the largest group of fresh consumers, Followers, even small increases in this group would be beneficial to the broader fresh food category. Such targeted consumer analysis, coupled with efforts from manufacturers around integrating the supply chain and improving efficiencies through the use of technology, can truly help realize the growth potential of fresh foods.”


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