Food Engineering
TECH FLASH

Fresh food sales continue to grow

At 30 to 60 percent of total food, grocery and personal spending, fresh foods are serious volume boosters.

April 8, 2013

Fresh food sales continue to grow

Fresh foods make up 30 to 60 percent of total food, grocery and personal care spending, making them high-traffic volume boosters.  Despite pressure on personal spending due to inflation, fresh foods continue to make healthy sales contributions according the Nielsen Global Survey of Fresh Foods released this month. By combining survey responses from Nielsen’s worldwide sales data, the report reveals not only how much fresh food consumers buy, but where they do their shopping and why they prefer that retail channel.

Nielsen says fresh foods are performing well worldwide, making up 60 percent of food, grocery and personal care expenses in Asia-Pacific, 53 percent in Europe, 30 percent in the US and 25 percent in Latin America. Though fresh foods exhibit some protection from price fluctuation, 52 percent of consumers say rising food prices affect their purchasing of fresh foods, with meat and poultry categories most commonly affected. 

Increased impact on meat and poultry categories is not surprising. After all, not all fresh food purchases can be weighted equally—purchasing a lobster creates more economic impact than purchasing an apple. Food and beverage companies can maximize revenue by understanding which products consumers will trade for a lower cost option and which they’ll spend extra on.

The first step to differentiating between those types of products is to understand how often consumers shop for fresh foods and where they do so. Nielsen’s research shows global consumers shop for fresh foods an average of 2.5 times per week. Shopping trips were most frequent for fruits and vegetables at 3.2 times per week, while fish and seafood shopping happened only 1.6 times per week.

The Asia Pacific region shopped the most for fruits and vegetables (3.9 times weekly), meat and poultry (2.6 times weekly) and fish and seafood (2.1 times weekly). Respondents from the Middle East and North Africa reported the highest average of weekly trips for dairy and deli (4.1 and 2.7, respectively), while Latin American respondents shop most frequently for bakery products at 4.3 times per week.

The frequency of shopping trips for various products isn’t the only differentiating factor in global fresh food consumption. According to Nielsen, consumers from different regions value different traits when buying fresh food: Europeans and North Americans prefer convenience and good value for the money, while respondents from Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East/North Africa put a premium on freshness and quality. Nielsen offers strategies for success in each region based on its particular shopping tendencies.

Given the Asia-Pacific region’s bountiful wet and open market options, it comes as no surprise that many Asian consumers shop for fresh foods. “As Asian retailers evolve from wet markets to modern trade to specialty stores, keep it fresh and maintain the integrity of the wet market feel,” says Peter Gale, managing director of retail services for Nielsen in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. “Ensure high quality standards and effectively communicate the importance of food safety.”

Although climate diversity means average monthly spending on fresh foods ranges from a high of 50 percent in Italy to a low of 33 percent in Norway, the supermarket channel reigns supreme in Europe. To keep consumers coming back, director of retailer industry insights for Nielsen Belgium Jean-Jacques Vandenheede recommends staff training. “Improve the level of servicing in fresh store departments with a staff cross-trained in multiple areas from the deli counter, to the bakery to the produce department,” Vandenheede says. “Customers will appreciate the extra attention and faster service.”

In the US, the name of the game is convenience. Americans shop for fresh foods fewer times each week than those in other regions, but fresh foods still make up 30 percent of store sales. And while grocery channels account for two-thirds of fresh foods sales, non-grocery channels are offering a greater assortment of fresh foods than ever before.

“Fresh is becoming more complex with greater variety in products and package sizes, more private label/brand options and increased value-added products such as diced vegetables or pre-marinated meats,” says Bruce Axtman, president of Nielsen Perishables Group. “Understand your shoppers generational and health needs to tailor offerings and implement programs that best meet their changing demands.”

To view the Nielsen Global Survey of Fresh Foods, click here.