The following is a A Q and A with James Milne, senior vice president of categories and marketing for Vancouver, B.C.-based Oppy.
What are some of the top trends in the fresh produce industry Oppy is tracking?
We believe in the power of adaptation, using change as a driving force to propel us forward and deliver exceptional results for our partners and customers.
One of the most impactful trends affecting everyone these days is inflation. As we monitor volume alongside inflation across the different sales channels, we see that while inflation has been easing off at retail it still remains high, thus impacting all the perimeter departments as well as fresh produce.
Related to the advancement in produce technology is the growing popularity of flavor-focused items, to which retailers are leaning into hydroponic and controlled environment growing to result in those higher flavor profiles produced in these methods.
Apples, berries, grapes, lettuce, stone fruit in particular and beyond, are witnessing significant developments as consumers expect even higher quality produce in the future. However, this may come at a slightly higher cost to consumers than in pre-COVID years, which will remain a challenge as we hover in these continuing inflationary times.
Looking at retail grocery, what is trending in the marketing and merchandising of fresh fruits and vegetables?
The rise of e-commerce is continuing to boom with retailers investing in digital marketing, mobile apps and online platforms to reach and engage consumers seeking convenience and accessibility.
We are no longer seeing the accelerated growth from online grocery shopping that we once were as shoppers returned to brick-and-mortar, but it will continue to grow steadily in the coming years, with many opportunities emerging in other channels.
As well, marketing efforts are becoming more personalized with retailers tailoring promotions and messaging to meet individual consumer preferences. Engaging with customers through social media, interactive displays and loyalty programs.
What health trends are likely to encourage consumers to eat certain fruits and vegetables in the coming years?
The growing emphasis on health and wellness has led to an increased focus on promoting the nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, though health trends can be fickle and subject to influencer-driven fads.
What remains constant is the demand for accessibility to consistently good produce as consumers are now more aware of nutritional benefits, especially that of vitamin C from their experience during the pandemic and with that, thinking of “food as medicine” too.
What packaging trends are expected to affect produce in the near future?
There is so much happening the packaging space. The industry is increasingly focused on sustainable packaging solutions, but it’s a gradual process.
Retailers will continue to demand more packaging options that prioritize the environment, such as those with 100% recyclability, increased post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, reduced plastic use, more tree-fiber and corrugate options, and compostable alternatives that do not contaminate the recycling stream.
As the demand for sustainability continues to grow, retailers will play a crucial role in driving environmentally friendly packaging practices.
Embracing sustainable packaging practices is essential for the industry’s future, and we are committed to being at the forefront of this positive change.
Another significant trend is the growth of private labels, which are gradually gaining more market share from national brands. Major retailers are increasingly promoting their own labels, pushing more volume through their private brands.
This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Value Proposition feature and more in the digital edition here.