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. Make no mistake however, fresh foods is a high-traffic builder.

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.”

The changes in buying behavior is sprouting growth at the perimeter—the areas of the market that sell fresh food items. In 2012, rising prices sparked dollar volume growth in all segments of the perimeter except seafood and vegetables, where prices had fallen from a year ago. It was consumer demand, however, that beefed up sales in the deli prepared foods, seafood and fruit areas.

“Consumers are adjusting their shopping behavior to the relatively high prices, but they’re focused on meeting their demand for fresh foods and produce,” said Todd Hale, SVP, Consumer & Shopper Insights. “Specifically, given higher prices, reduced promotion support, they’re making trade-offs or buying less, especially in non-food grocery, dairy, fresh meat, dry grocery, general merchandise and frozen foods. Where are they buying more? Volume for fresh produce, health and beauty aids, and deli are all up on a year-over-year basis at the end of last year.”

The lingering effects of last year’s drought has prices up the most in fresh meat (+5.4%), yet volume sales are down just 1 percent. “Protein is still very much a part of our diet, but this reflects how some consumers are shifting spending away from higher-priced beef to less expensive pork and poultry,” says Hale.