Consumers’ food shopping patterns and eating habits are constantly evolving. It’s important to pay attention to those changing preferences and new food movements, as they can impact the way consumers shop in stores, what they purchase, and what they order in restaurants. Here are three produce trends that I believe have already made waves in our industry, and I also believe they’ll keep taking shape and growing throughout the year.
Trend 1: Locally grown produce and artisan, small batch products keep consumers coming back
Consumers’ interest in knowing where their food comes from is growing, and they’re on a quest to feel a connection with the people behind the products they’re buying—like the local farmer who grows the sweet corn they love to eat every summer, the brewmaster who creates their favorite craft beer, and the artisan chocolatier who makes truffles look like works of art.
Many consumers—especially Millennials—take a lot of pride in supporting tradesmen from their own communities and the goods that are tied to their region’s heritage. They’re excited to learn about local fruits and vegetables, and they want to embrace and enjoy peak season produce.
This increased interest in hyper-local, artisanal, small batch products is an important factor for stores to consider as they think about the products they carry and the ways they merchandise their spaces. Consider creating a local section or adding signage showing customers where their food is coming from.
Trend 2: Vegetables are taking center stage on consumers’ plates
Vegetables are versatile, nutritious, and flavorful, and they’re becoming the centerpiece of meals. Consumers and chefs alike are getting creative in the ways they prepare and serve vegetable-centric dishes—from grilled cauliflower steaks to zucchini, asparagus, and beet “noodles”—and they are using more parts of the plant—from root to leaf—when possible. And, because more people are subbing vegetables for meats in meals, there is an increase in demand for vegetables that offer high-impact antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and iron.
Agricultural researchers and nutritionists believe that indigenous vegetables have a richer nutritional profile, which could be the reason why indigenous vegetables from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East—as well as those regions’ hot, spicy, and smoky flavors—are all gaining popularity on restaurant menus. The ghost pepper is a perfect example of a hot vegetable (no pun intended) that is growing in popularity. Indigenous varieties that are more drought- and pest-resistant are even more prominent, like spider plant, cowpea, and amaranth.
As these items and flavors start claiming more real estate on restaurant plates, we’ll see more options like these become increasingly important—and, perhaps, mainstream items—to retail consumers, too.
Trend 3: Convenience is king
Convenience comes in many forms, and it reigns supreme in consumers’ eyes. From products that make it easier to prepare meals—like salad kits, prepared components that can be tailored to taste at home, and pre-washed, pre-chopped vegetables—to experience-driven conveniences—in-store restaurants, coffee shops, and classes from nutritionists and chefs, for example—supermarkets are increasingly focused on making food shopping easier and more enjoyable for consumers.
Retailer-delivered meal kits, community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes, and other meal-in-a-box services are also gaining in popularity. Before jumping in, remember the market for meal-in-box services is fairly new and competition is popping up left and right. Consider testing it on a target set of consumers before diving in.
As new trends come and go, Robinson Fresh is dedicated to bringing you the finest produce at attractive prices, year round, from local farms or fields far away.