The Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) released "What’s New? From the Consumer View 2022" in one of two educational sessions at its fall show, Southern Innovations.
“Only 12 percent of consumers meet the daily recommended amount of fresh produce,” said David Sherrod, president and CEO of the SEPC. “That means there is a lot of room for growth. We looked at how technology and innovation at the farm, in the store, on the menu and for the planet can be the helping hand for consumers to boost their fresh produce consumption.”
Top findings for each of the four sections of the research include:
At the farm
74 percent of consumers are unaware of how growers use technology, but four in 10 are interested in virtual field, farm or greenhouse visits. Additionally, half of consumers like the idea of mini greenhouses in-store or in restaurant.
New mixed varieties and new sizes, such as one-portion cauliflowers or mini avocados draw the highest interest. Additionally, 46 percent of consumers are intrigued with the idea of enhanced functional benefits for fresh fruits and vegetables, such as extra Vitamin C or tear-free onions.
Left to right: David Sherrod, Anne-Marie Roerink
In the store
“The study found that the competition for fresh produce is much, much wider than frozen and canned,” Sherrod noted. “Supplements, smoothies, squeeze pouches, shots and center-store items touting plant-based are all taking a bite out of fresh produce sales.”
Consumers also strongly believe in the link between fresh produce and their own health. While awareness of prescription produce is low, at 20 percent, 53 percent believe fresh produce can help manage health issues.
On the menu
Inflation is pressuring restaurant trips and prompting 52 percent of consumers to change their orders when buying from restaurants.
Consumers also expressed high interest in a number of ways to boost fresh produce consumption at restaurants: 71 percent are interested in a trip to the salad bar complementary to the main entrée; 65 percent would like to see beverages/smoothies made with fresh fruit/vegetables on the menu; 63 percent are interested in fresh fruit as an option for dessert or an appetizer; and 60 percent like the idea of being able to swap traditional carbs.
For the planet
Four in 10 Americans struggle with fruit and vegetables going bad before they could eat them and 91 percent end up throwing some fresh produce away. Additionally, 37 percent struggle with fresh produce being sold in packages that are too big for their households.
Consumers say commitments regarding limiting food and packaging waste, giving back to the community and supporting special causes are important and can influence purchases by a little more than half.
The online study among 1,500 consumers was conducted by 210 Analytics in July 2022.