The power of a good fresh section

When consumers buy produce or milk, average basket size can double

When you live next door to a cultural behemoth like the U.S., it’s tempting to draw comparisons.

Sometimes, this can lead to bruised egos (our sports teams’ winning records, for instance). Other times, it produces valuable insights, such as Nielsen’s recent “Global Survey” report.

The annual study, which analyzes the shopping behaviour of Canadians as well as people from 57 other countries including the U.S., revealed some interesting differences among nations.

For example, when you combine produce, deli, meat, bakery, refrigerated products and dairy, Canadian consumers shop for fresh food 1.4 times a week. That’s markedly lower than the global average of 2.5.

Also, shopping trips in Canada are most frequently for fruit and vegetables (1.8 times per week), unlike Latin America, where consumers head to the store 4.3 times a week to pick up bread and baked goods.

The survey also revealed similarities and differences in how consumers around the world choose their grocery stores. Canadian shoppers and their counterparts in Europe and the U.S. cite “good value for their money” and “convenience” as the most important store choice factors.

In Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, on the other hand, “freshness” is the most important factor. Here are more fresh insights into Canadian consumers’ attitudes and approaches to grocery shopping.

Money, money, money: Despite an increase in consumer confidence, Nielsen’s survey revealed that Canadians still feel cautious about the economy.

As a result, Canadians are keeping a tight grip on their wallets. But that’s actually good news for grocers: Consumers tell us they’re ordering out less frequently than they used to, and cooking more often at home.

Thanks to financial stress, Canadians are searching for value throughout the grocery store. That includes the fresh and refrigerated departments, which make up a whopping 33% of grocery sales in Canada.

Consumers want selection, value and quality–and considering the incredible power they wield (thank you, social media), grocers would be wise to meet those demands.

Get “fresh” with consumers: With consumers making fewer shopping trips (21 fewer trips per year compared to three years ago), and keeping close tabs on their spending, fresh is a key part of the store where retailers can differentiate themselves.

One way to win with fresh is to link fresh goods with complementary products from other store departments. For example, place tortilla chips next to an avocado display, and erect a sign with a quick, downloadable recipe for guacamole.

Shoppers are all about convenience, so an ample selection of pre-cut, washed and packaged veggies and salads is a must.

Retailers can also improve the customer service level in fresh departments with staff who are cross-trained in multiple areas, from the deli counter to the produce section. Customers will appreciate the extra attention and speedy service.

Twice the sales: A strong fresh offer will help increase overall transaction size. Nielsen research shows that when consumers buy produce or milk, for example, their average basket grows by one-and-a-half to two times.

Of course, in order to capture those sales, grocers have to offer quality products: more than half of Canadians say “quality fresh” is a key factor in store choice.

Fresh isn’t as easy as it used to be, for grocers or for consumers. Today, we’re confronted with a mind-boggling array of products and package sizes, private label and national brand options, as well as “value-add” products, such as diced vegetables and pre-marinated meats.

Understanding your shoppers’ needs will help you tailor your offering and implement programs that will meet their evolving demands.

Carman Allison is director of industry insights at Nielsen in Toronto

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