Kroger has named regional flavors, plant-based foods, eating styles, gut-healthy foods and low sugar and natural sweeteners as the big trends for 2019.

The retailer did not mention fresh produce in its “Products to Try” list for each trend, instead focusing mainly on consumer packaged goods from its house brands.

I can see produce dovetailing nicely with several of these trends, however, and suppliers and retailers should consider how to connect them in marketing and merchandising.

Kroger describes the trend of “eating styles” as encompassing vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, keto, paleo and more. Countless produce items are perfect for these diets because they are straightforward from an ingredient perspective, they taste good, and they are likely affordable compared to more trend-specific products that may have premium prices.

Point-of-sale material that touches on the usefulness of fresh produce for various eating styles could make sense in stores that cater to certain demographics, but using social media to communicate that message is definitely something to try. It shows that a company is paying attention to what people say they are seeking, and that is always good.

Given that health continues to be a focus, think about how you could use a retail dietitian to help shoppers connect their eating style and health goals with fresh produce and overall nutrition. Come up with some ways to facilitate these conversations, and see what happens to produce sales, basket size and shopper loyalty indicators.

Dietitians can also bring perspective on which produce items contribute to better gut health, and they can give nuanced advice about fruit to shoppers worried about sugar.

With rising interest in plant-based eating, suppliers might want to look at how to position their products as compatible with milk and meat alternatives. How about promoting produce-happy recipes for dairy-free green smoothies or delicious meatless burgers?

Obviously shopper interest in trends varies widely, but I believe it would be smart to build a resource center for consumers in the form of a collection of shopping lists. You could outline the basic go-to items for everything from keto, paleo and plant-based to low-carb, low-sugar and low-sodium.

Simple recipes — requiring no more than five or six ingredients and 15-20 minutes — would add even more value. Publix does a great job of that element with its Aprons program.

As for regional flavors, it seems to me that this trend comes back to shoppers wanting to know the story of their food — where it comes from, what inspires it. Telling the story creates a uniqueness that shoppers find attractive. People are always looking to learn something and tell other people about what they just found out.

When it comes to the influence of global flavors, World Variety Produce’s Robert Schueller said some of the specialty produce items trending currently include yellow dragon fruit, jackfruit, shishito peppers, petite baby bok choy, Shanghai bok choy, ginger, celery root, kohlrabi and hatch chiles.

From flavor to eating styles to plant-based to gut health, pretty much all Kroger’s trends for 2019 can connect with fresh produce. Be sure to take advantage, whether in-store or online.

 

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