By: Sherrie Terry
‘Tis the season…for holiday meal planning and shopping, and for the publication of annual trend reports. From flavors, ingredients, menus, attitudes, lifestyles, and beyond, trend watchers are publishing what to expect in the year ahead. Heading into 2020, organic produce sits squarely at the intersection of leading consumer and retail trends that are expected to strengthen, deepen, and endure in the decade ahead.
Working together, retailers and organic produce marketers can leverage them to deliver unique consumer experiences for profitable growth and shopper loyalty.
Storytelling, Plant-based Revolution, and Sustain Domain are the top three trends cited by consumer insights firm Innova in their “Top 10 Trends for 2020” report. Consumers want to discover the story behind the foods they eat; 56 percent say the stories around brands influence their purchase decision. They want to know why companies make (or grow) their foods the way they do; what taste, quality, and other benefits they can expect based on the provenance of the product; who the people are behind the product; etc. Storytelling platforms include lifestyle, taste/flavor, processing/growing methods, culture/tradition, geography and more. Telling stories promotes product understanding and builds trust.
Second, plant-based eating is becoming a mainstream revolution. And it’s not just plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy more consumers are adopting a “flexitarian” lifestyle and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to feel healthier.
Third, sustainability expectations are higher than ever before. The percent of consumers who “expect companies to invest in sustainability” increased from 65 to 87 percent in just the past year, and nearly 40 percent under age 35 say they choose grocery products based on sustainability1.
While food waste and plastic reduction are hot topics, environmental stewardship and agricultural practices remain high on the sustainability radar. Demonstration of sustainable practices comes not only through certification programs, such as the USDA Organic seal, but also through storytelling. Which takes us back to trend number one.
Turning Stories into Experiences
As online shopping rises in popularity, food retailers are rethinking their instore shopping experience. While it seems counter-intuitive, the average number of weekly shopping trips has increased from 1.2 trips in 2012 to 1.6 trips today.2 More frequent trips are replacing larger, “stock-up” trips and include more perishable items intended for use within the next few days.
The 2019 Walker Sands “Future of Retail” report3 notes that 64 percent of consumers say they still like to select their own produce, 50 percent outright like shopping and 36 percent admit using grocery shopping as a reason to get out of the house and for social interaction. Importantly, the decision to shop online or instore for groceries is not either/or it’s both/and. Grocery shoppers typically make their first online purchases with their primary grocery store; building loyalty and connection through instore experience and service is critical to remaining the store of choice for a shopper’s total grocery basket whether purchased online or instore.
Organic supermarket display
Recent Incisiv research points to a “retail renaissance,” where physical stores are being reimagined as hubs of experience, service, and convenience. Yes, shoppers want speed and ease at check-out (the point of purchase), but they want experience and service at the point of decision.
Two emerging retail concepts identified by Incisiv are “Shared Experiences” and “Immersive Storytellers.” These formats both reinforce and build on the consumer trends noted above. Shared Experience concepts include dedicated gathering or interaction spaces to bring together communities of shoppers for experiences beyond just the products themselves. Immersive Storyteller concepts take this even further, allowing shoppers to use the products in simulated or real-life environments (think on-premise, hands-on cooking classes followed by dining with your classmates.)
Both concepts have the potential to engage, delight, and build shopper loyalty by leveraging shopper desire for authenticity, storytelling, community, and service that goes beyond a transactional relationship. This type of experiential retailing demonstrates that the retailer understands their shopper on a personal level and can connect with them in a way that can’t be done online.
Organic Produce Sits at the Sweet Spot
Organic produce, by its very nature, is uniquely qualified to deliver on these consumer and retailer trends. Organic growers/marketers have compelling, authentic stories that can (and should) be told at every touchpoint packaging, point of sale, website, social, print, etc.
Organic produce continues to be a consumer and retailer trend
What is your history and what drove your decision to grow organic? What has your experience been? How do you define “the organic lifestyle?” Think creatively about how to bring that story to life instore, whether it’s through augmented reality labels, QR codes that link to online videos, or interactive touchscreens/kiosks in the produce department. Collaborate with your retailers to host instore educational sessions featuring your story and your products.
For retailers, offer cooking demonstrations or classes featuring organic-based recipes/menus; make organic recipes available online and instore and merchandise the ingredients together to make it easier to shop; and provide educational programs for kids and/or schools. These are just a few ways organic produce suppliers and retailers together can leverage these emerging and enduring trends to create loyalty-building experiences and drive profitable growth.