‘Healthy’ snacks compete with fruits and vegetables | TheFencePost.com

‘Healthy’ snacks compete with fruits and vegetables

Processed food sales have declined in favor of fresh food in recent years, but fruit and vegetable sales declined two quarters in a row as consumers turn to other healthy snacks, the United Fresh Produce Association said in a report released in late August.

To make consumers feel good about buying the snacks, they must have names and characteristics different but connected to traditional processed food snacks, said MISC, a publication by Cognizant Digital Business that describes itself as "a journal of strategic insight and foresight."

"With the produce department facing its second consecutive quarter of decreased sales, understanding consumer exposure to new products and how they engage with food will help retailers meet changing needs," according to the United Fresh Produce Association's second quarter 2017 edition of the "FreshFacts on Retail" report.

"Consumers are seeking healthy options, and produce departments are seeing competition for dollar share as healthy snack options are featured in all corners of the retail store," United Fresh Vice President of Trade Relations Jeff Oberman said in a news release.

"However, there is great potential for produce companies to find success in cross-merchandising and partnerships with other food companies to maintain a presence with the consumer across the store, which will help retailers continue to fresh produce sales success."

The FreshFacts on Retail report, produced in partnership with Nielsen Fresh and input and direction from the United Fresh Retail-Foodservice Board of Directors, measured retail price and sales trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities as well as other value-added produce categories.

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The report, available for purchase, is sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce.

Meanwhile, the MISC report said consumers with a "post-industrial palate" said they reject industrially produced food but have fond memories of items such as macaroni and cheese and will buy variations on them if they make claims such as "gluten-free, made with hormone-free milk containing active cultures and packaged in a recycled box labeled with sustainable inks, coatings and adhesives."

"To artfully operationalize the post-industrial palate, the cliche of a new twist on an old favorite is instructive: The new twist must acknowledge the ways we hope to reject particular versions of the past (i.e. pollution, food additives, one-size-fits-all), while the old favorite must sustain its mystique of nostalgic attachment, whether through form, aesthetic, texture or micro-production," wrote Tania Ahmad, resident anthropologist at Idea Couture, a consulting firm that is the co-publisher of MISC.

"Hitting that delicate balance requires a deep awareness of the immediate past and the change drivers in the industry, but it is critical to investigate and explore how the people in a particular target market relate to processed foods — what they may critique, embrace or profess indifference to. We can't pretend to know what they think unless we discover and guage the relevant design principles for multisensory bliss. Only then can we effectively tell people that elevated processed foods are good for the planet, their souls and for working folks everywhere."

Other articles in the package entitled "What's Feeding You: the Future of Food" explored the role of the counter-cultural, back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s in today's consumer preferences, technological change in agriculture, the overpromising of health benefits from food and the slowness of "Big Food" in adapting to the digital age.

Separately, Marcia Mogolensky, the director of insight for Mintel, a consumer research firm, recently said that all foods are considered snacks because people pick them up at any time of day, Bakery and Snacks.com reported.

Mogolenksy made the comment at Snackex, an industry conference held in Vienna in June.

The biggest recent improvement is in fruit and vegetable snacks, which are now freeze-dried, baked, fried, dried and puffed, the article said.