The Ultimate Produce Customer

SAN DIEGO  – The world has become increasingly consumer oriented, where it is now the responsibility of producers to be able to interact directly with end users. Produce is no exception. Retail shoppers want to know what they’re buying, where it comes from, what to do with it, what the value is and any other distinguishing characteristics that may be important. This changes the focus for marketing through the entire supply chain, including growers, importers, distributors and retailers.

“Produce is not alone in this new evolving market place. Retailers in many fields face challenges with online sales, where shoppers go into brick and mortar stores for information, and then buy online for reduced prices and convenience,” says Bev Oster, President of Oster and Associates, a San Diego based marketing firm specializing in produce. But while online shopping is not the competitive problem for produce, here are some of the trends that affect the way you market everything from cabbage to kumquats.

Organic Preference: Sale of organic produce continues to have double digit growth every year. It is no longer a small niche category, but rather a growing mainstream purchasing choice. And the demographic for organic may hold many aging baby boomers, but it is equally important for families with small children. Organic buyers prefer to find all organic produce together, where they can make one lifestyle choice and find the options that are available to fit their beliefs.

Focus on Kids: Increased awareness of childhood obesity and the role produce can take in reducing this national problem has opened up opportunities for the produce industry. But in a system that has never focused on children, this is a new trend that creates challenges. Kids are attracted to bright, colorful campaigns, super heroes and sports. While this may be a merchandising thought process for retailers for the entire produce department, for individual products it is differentiating yourself with labeling, packaging, promotions and materials that are of interest to the three to thirteen set.

Health Benefits: Fruits and vegetables are healthy, but consumers want to know what the health benefits are of everything from bananas to broccoli. What gives them fiber, what is high in antioxidants, where can they get vitamin C and what are the safest directions to go for a diabetic? Marketing individual products to address these consumer concerns actually raises consumption. An important function of marketing is education, and this is education at its most basic level.

Buy Local: Perhaps one of the biggest challenges on a retail level today is the buy local trend. Many consumers have switched their produce purchase to farmers markets or Community Supported Agriculture. In the retail market, shoppers want to know what produce comes from around the corner. But if they are buying blueberries from South America, they may be fine with it as long as they know there are no local blueberries. Having that conscious choice is important.

Pick Your Favorite Charity: While shoppers are trying to stretch their available dollars, and fresh produce can help them do that, they are also more philanthropic oriented than ever. Most large market chains now have a “charity of the month,” allowing shoppers to donate on checkout. But produce companies that are also involved in health, educational and social programs that help the underprivileged also see increased sales benefits.

It is often better to be a trend setter than a trend follower. However, by looking at shopping trends, knowing the concerns of buyers, and understanding how shoppers prioritize their spending can help the ROI of everyone from growers to retailers. Today’s trends are tomorrow’s sales opportunities.  The produce industry can’t continue to do business as it’s always been done. New and innovative thinking provides better returns and happier customers.

About Oster and Associates

Founded in 1986, Oster and Associates is a full-service branding and public relations agency with a long history working with a wide range of both local and national produce industry clients such as Farmer’s Best, the California Tomato Commission, and Organics Unlimited. For more information on Oster and Associates, visit or call 619-906-5540. 

Source: Oster and Associates