Fresh Maintains Footing Amid Economic Uncertainty

Despite continued economic uncertainty, fresh foods remain a healthy part of the American diet, as U.S. consumers spend 30 percent of their food, grocery and personal care expense in the fresh category, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Fresh Foods.

The mix of where consumers shop for fresh, however, is evolving, particularly as retailers learn that customers spend more when there’s fresh food in their shopping baskets.

As consumers watch their budgets, value and convenience are important considerations. Although the grocery channel is the leader in fresh foods -- accounting for two-thirds of the retail market -- fresh is growing in non-grocery channels as retailers respond to consumer demands. In fact, most store expansions since December 2005 have been outside the traditional food, drug and mass merchandise outlets, with the biggest growth occurring among warehouse clubs, supercenters, dollar stores and convenience stores. By 2016, Nielsen expects the retail fresh dollar market share to grow to 15 percent in the hypermarket channel (combined supermarket/department stores) and to 12 percent in the warehouse club channel.

Additionally, Americans shop for fresh foods less frequently than shoppers in other regions of the world—1.4 times per week on average, compared with 2.5 times per week globally. The fresh food category maintains its footing as a high-traffic builder, however, as savvy retailers understand that consumers want the option to choose fresh foods anywhere, and they’re fighting for the fresh share of wallet.

“Fresh is becoming more complex with greater variety in products and package sizes, more private label/brand options and increased value-added products, such as diced vegetables or pre-marinated meats,” said Bruce Axtman, president, Nielsen Perishables Group. “Understand your shoppers’ generational and health needs to tailor offerings and implement programs that best meet their changing demands.”

Highlights of the survey confirm:

  • In the U.S., fresh foods account for 30 percent of consumer expenditures on food, grocery and personal care items.
  • U.S. consumers shop for fresh foods about 1.4 times per week, compared with the global average of 2.5 times per week.
  • Fresh produce accounted for 32 percent for fresh category sales in the U.S., second only to the meat department’s 39 percent share.
  • By 2016, Nielsen predicts U.S. retail fresh dollar market share for supercenters/hypermarkets will climb to 15 percent, up 1 percent from 2012.
  • The share of fresh sales at U.S. warehouse clubs will rise to 12 percent by 2016, up 2 percent from 2012.
  • Supermarkets' share of fresh sales will decline from 66 percent in 2012 to 64 percent by 2016.

“Fresh as a commodity market is changing and can no longer just rely on strategies that are determined by supply and commodity prices,” Axtman added. “Suppliers and retailers are slowly but surely transitioning to the consumer-packaged goods style of category management based on the knowledge of both consumer and performance data to better understand how various consumer groups purchase fresh foods differently, at which stores, and at what price points.”