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NEWARK, Del. - Many consumers aren't brand loyal when it comes to produce, and that loyalty may be lagging in part because the produce industry hasn't taken full advantage of opportunities to harness the brand-promoting power of packaging, according to two research projects from the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) based here.
Consumers don't feel the love for fresh produce brands, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 primary-shopper consumers conducted in mid-December 2006; 84 percent report they don't feel strongly about any brand, while conversely only 16 percent report they are strongly brand loyal. Meanwhile, the 45 percent who reported that produce brand is at least "somewhat" or "a lot" important to them suggests the marketing opportunities.
"Branding helps create passion and loyalty for products among consumers, but the produce industry has a long way to go in harnessing the power of brands," said PMA president Bryan Silbermann.
Other recent PMA research suggests that one area where the produce industry is missing the branding mark is on packaging.
"Attractive and informative packaging is the final and best chance to connect with shoppers and generate a purchase," said Silbermann. "Yet our 2004 and 2006 research found there has been little change in the produce industry packaging marketplace over those two years, indicating that we haven't done much to take advantage of opportunities there."
PMA's consumer surveys about packaging found that consumers aren't increasing their packaged produce purchases, and in fact they may be decreasing them. Consumers who reported that packaged produce makes up one-fourth to one-half of their produce purchases plummeted from 32 percent in 2004 to 12 percent in 2006; meanwhile, the percentage of those reporting they purchased no packaged produce nearly tripled.
Why aren't convenience-driven consumers embracing packaged produce? A key finding of the PMA research was that 78 percent of consumers perceive packaged produce, excluding salads, to be of lower quality and freshness than bulk produce. "If we want to grow sales, we need to communicate the quality, freshness and safety of packaged products to encourage consumers to pay the premium," said Silbermann.