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    Consumers Changing Purchase Choices in Troubled Economy

    The Perishables Group, a market research firm specializing in the fresh food industry, unveiled the preliminary results of a consumer research project during a workshop at last week’s Southeast Produce Council Southern Exposure conference.

    The Perishables Group, a market research firm specializing in the fresh food industry, unveiled the preliminary results of a consumer research project during a workshop at last week’s Southeast Produce Council Southern Exposure conference.

    The workshop detailed Perishables Group research into how the economy affects consumer purchase choices and shopping decisions in the fresh departments at retail, with special attention to consumers’ sensitivity to pricing and substitution points.

    A panel discussion examined how leading retailers and suppliers are coping with changing consumer purchase behavior. Panelists included Todd Hale, SVP, consumer & shopper insights, Nielsen; Peter Kohutanycz, director of consumer insight, Stop & Shop; and Gene Loudon, director of marketing for Dovex Fruit Co.

    Perishables Group president and CEO Bruce Axtman, detailed preliminary results of consumer trade-down behavior in high-, mid- and low-priced items in the meat and produce departments. Initial analysis indicates consumers are trading down in the meat department from high-priced beef items to high-priced chicken or midpriced beef items. In the produce department, high-priced items such as tangerines are being negatively impacted, while value items like grapefruit are benefiting. Other categories seeing strong sales growth are bananas and grapes.

    “Everyone has been affected by the economic downturn in one way or another,” said Axtman. “Our objective for this consumer research project is to reach fact-based conclusions about how consumers are behaving as a result of the economic crisis, so we can turn that knowledge into actionable results to improve sales for retailers and suppliers throughout the fresh industry.”

    In-depth results of the study will be presented at the upcoming United Fresh 2009, scheduled for April 21 through April 24 in Las Vegas. For more information, contact the Perishables Group at 773-929-7013 or visit www.perishablesgroup.com/.

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