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Ear and Now: 5 Consumer Insights to Know this Sweet Corn Season
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Ear and Now: 5 Consumer Insights to Know this Sweet Corn Season

Summertime is sweet corn season. With tender kernels that have enough versatility to make an entire summer’s worth of meals extra fresh and tasty—whether they’re boiled, grilled, sautéed, or uncooked—it’s no surprise that consumer demand for sweet corn coincides with the peak season.

Robinson Fresh conducted a survey with U.S. consumers to learn about the factors that impact their decisions to purchase sweet corn. Their responses revealed several key insights about their shopping preferences—along with findings that retailers can use to increase sweet corn sales.

5 consumer-based insights that can help retailers sell more sweet corn

1. Sweet summer promotions drive sweet corn sales

Our survey found that promotions are the main driver of impulse purchases of corn. As one the top 10 most promoted items during the summer, the majority of retailers publish promotional ads on a weekly basis during the June-to-September timeframe.

In addition to promoting sweet corn during the high-demand summer months, think about the precise timing of those campaigns. Demand for sweet corn is highly seasonal, with 61% of the volume sold from June through September. Corn sales peak at the Fourth of July; corn sales account for 14% of the volume sold in the year during the two weeks surrounding the holiday. There is still 57% of the season remaining, with Labor Day being an important holiday for sales, according to IRI.

2. When it comes to sweet corn, consumers say GMO is a no-go

Over half (52%) of consumers surveyed—and 60% of those with kids—said that it’s extremely or very important to their purchase decision that sweet corn is genetically modified organism (GMO)-free. In reality, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 90% of the sweet corn grown in the United States is free of GMOs.

The concern in many consumers’ minds stems from a statistic that 93% of all corn in the United States is genetically modified—but most GMO corn is used for livestock feed and in processed foods and is distinctly different from sweet corn.

To ease consumers’ concerns, make sure you work with a fresh food provider that offers GMO-free sweet corn, and then clearly communicate the message on signage in stores.

3. Consumers prefer to buy sweet corn in bulk

At the retail level, 70% of sweet corn sales come from bulk product. Most sweet corn shoppers (78%) prefer selecting each individual ear over a bagged, ready-to-go product. When asked about the ideal number of ears in a grab-and-go bag, 43% preferred a bag with five ears of sweet corn. Finally, while tray-packaged sweet corn has a smaller share, this packaging is experiencing growth at the retail level (33% growth year-over-year), and provides an opportunity to grow sales.

To entice shoppers, make sure the bulk display is well-stocked and neatly stacked, but also consider those who crave convenience by offering bagged or tray-packed options.

4. Consumers in different regions prefer different sweet corn colors

Although bi-color is the most commonly grown sweet corn variety in the United States, there are some regional differences in preference for sweet corn colors. It makes sense, because corn color availability varies depending on regional supply.

States in the Western U.S. over-index in preference for white sweet corn—which matches supply, given that the majority of white corn is produced in California.

Consumers in the Plains and Great Lakes regions over-index in preference for bi-color sweet corn. This, too, aligns with supply, since bi-color corn is predominantly grown in the Midwest.

South Central states (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas) over-index in preference for yellow sweet corn, likely the result of two main factors. First is the region’s proximity to Florida and Georgia, the main producers of yellow corn (according to USDA). Second is the high concentration of Hispanics in this region, who prefer yellow corn over other varieties.

5. Sweet corn is typically a planned purchase

Of the 88% of consumers who buy sweet corn, three-quarters plan their purchases before they even get to the store. What’s more, they also already have in mind the quantity, color (white, yellow, bi-color), and packaging type they’d like to buy.

About a third (34%) of sweet corn shoppers who plan to purchase sweet corn are willing to buy a substitute produce item if sweet corn is out of stock, but 44% will actually go to another store to buy it. In addition to missing corn sales—and potentially those of other complementary items like meats and melons—this can affect overall store traffic.

Final thoughts

Sculpting a shopping experience that aligns with your customers’ preferences and what is important to them can help drive more impulse purchases in your produce department—during the busy summer season and beyond.

Knowledge is power, and that’s why Robinson Fresh has a team of dedicated analysts who diligently keep an eye on category and consumer trends, turning deep and detailed insights into specific, actionable recommendations and ideas to help you capture more sales. You can dig into these insights right here on Freshspective, or download our consumer and category insights papers.

Want to talk about your sweet corn program? Connect with one of our fresh experts.

Molly Tabron

Molly Tabron - Senior Commodity Analyst

Molly Tabron is a senior commodity analyst and has been with Robinson Fresh 10+ years. Having held leadership positions on both business and analytics teams, her diverse experience within the fresh produce supply chain helps to shape the vision for supply planning and analytics for Robinson Fresh. Molly is married with two young kids. In her spare time, she enjoys photography.
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