Momma, Don’t Take My Convenience Away
Value-added produce sales slow with economy, says United Fresh
Portion-controlled snacks lag in bad economy

Momma, Don’t Take My Convenience Away

Consumers worldwide, with hearts set on sustainability, also keep both eyes on convenience, study finds.

Astudy recently conducted by the consumer goods unit of Ipsos Marketingshows that global consumers care about the state of the natural world but cling tight to the conveniences of the modern world. While consumers are interested in doing their part in sustainability initiatives, the data suggests consumers will do so only on their terms, leaving consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in a double bind.

“Consumers are more open to taking part in ‘green’ activities that save them money and are simple and easy,” says Amaury de Condé, Senior Vice President, Ipsos Marketing, Global Consumer Goods. “However, they are less likely to be proactive about protecting the environment if it requires giving up...even minor conveniences such as individual-size food packages and plastic bags.”

Nearly all of the respondents in the study were likely to take or continue to take environmentally minded actions in the next six months. Such measures include reusing jars and containers (51%), buying products with recyclable packaging (50%) and reducing usage of paper plates and plastic cups (48%) as well as single-serve plastic bottles (45%).

Yet the survey suggests global consumers won’t freely give up major conveniences-including use of dishwashers, washing machines and dryers-or cut back on their use of individual-size packaging and plastic bags. Likewise, the study indicated that respondents were only lukewarm to using economy-size packaging or buying less bulky packaging at the expense of reduced convenience.

“Packaging is a tricky area,” notes de Condé. “Consumers want packaging to be recyclable, yet they are wary of using economy sizes and other packaging alternatives that might interfere with the convenience of the product. Marketers must really explore their specific categories to ensure that the steps they are taking to develop innovative, environmentally friendly products and packaging will meet consumers’ thresholds for convenience and value.”

Value-added produce sales slow with economy, says United Fresh

Research outlines impact of economy, trends over multiple categories in fresh produce.

While the phrase “value-added” typically beckons consumers from all directions, the latest United Freshquarterly research report,Fresh Facts on Retail, suggests this isn’t always the case. As the economy has slowed, so too have sales of some types of value-added produce as many consumers trade down to save money. The report tracks retail price and sales volumes for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories.

Of note to film and bag manufacturers, the report indicated that weekly dollar sales of packaged salads fell by nearly 5%, but in contrast, bulk lettuce sales rose 6.9% during the first quarter of 2009. Packaged salads typically use more packaging material than the wraps used to protect bulk lettuce.

Considering the overall produce landscape, three of the top 10 fresh fruits-berries, grapes and avocados-saw increases in sales volume. Likewise, sales and volume of organic fruit-a category whose growth spurt has been threatened by the recession-jumped nearly 10%. Finally, weekly sales of fresh-cut fruit fell by 12%, but retained its majority stake (72.4%) of the value-added fruit category.

Portion-controlled snacks lag in bad economy

As belt-tightening continues, studies indicate consumers seek larger packages or even unpackaged, bulk products.

The economic downturn is causing consumers to move away from single-serve snack packaging toward larger packages or even unpackaged food, according to a couple of studies.

Only about 14% of American adult consumers report buying portion-controlled snacks, according to a recent survey fromMintel. Those who do said that convenience is the biggest driver, followed by weight management. The ones who don’t cited cost, too-small portions and just plain lack of interest in the concept.

This could spell trouble for the 100-calorie snack packs put out by major manufacturers like Kraft Foods, Kellogg and General Mills. According toDatamonitor, 190 new packages with the 100-calorie claim came out last year and 68 so far this year. But Datamonitor spokesperson Tom Vierhile told Brandweek that the trend seems to be ebbing: “This has been a big trend the last couple of years, but has dropped off this year and at this point it looks like we’re going to come in below where we were last year,” he says. In the 52-week period ending April 19, sales of Kraft’s Oreos Thin Crisps, one of the first 100-calorie products to come out, were down 30.5%, according toInformation Resources Inc.

Some consumers are turning to foods with no packaging at all. According to asurvey of grocers published in Progressive Grocer, bulk foods have risen 10% in sales volume over the last 12 months. Advantages include price, customized quantities, and perceptions of healthfulness, freshness and sustainability. Because many organic foods come in bulk, this trend may account for some of the continued double-digit growth in organics, at a time when overall food sales are rising only about 3% a year.

“We started adding bulk sections about five years ago,” Yvan Cournoyer, business development manager for the Texas-based HEB grocery chain, told Progressive Grocer. “We have 275 stores in Texas, and 60 of them now have bulk departments.”

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