Despite the flurry of consumer interest in farmers’ markets, these markets don’t pose a threat to produce departments. Not a big one, anyway.
As previously reported by SN, a recent survey for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation found that 71% of shoppers most often go to a grocery store for their fruits and vegetables. Only 14% of those surveyed said that a farmers’ market is their main source of fruits and vegetables.
Although shoppers aren’t turning to farmers’ markets for the bulk of their produce needs, a significant portion — 70% — bought something from a farmers’ market in the last year. That’s a lot of people engaging with farmers’ markets.
Consumers turn to supermarkets for fruit and vegetable convenience and variety, but produce departments ought to take a closer look at what’s drawing people to the farmers’ markets in the first place.
First and foremost, farmers’ markets are the embodiment of “local.” It’s common for farm stands to play up their connection to the community with signs declaring their farm’s hometown.
These local products seem fresher to shoppers, and supporting a local farm makes them feel good about their purchases. In the survey, 67% of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for fresh fruits and vegetables if they knew the money was staying in the community.
Supermarkets can do more to become champions of local farmers. Retailers often source locally, but many still aren’t calling out local products with in-store signs and displays.
Produce departments can position themselves as permanent farmers’ markets.
“A lot of times the farmers’ market is one day in town, but we can do a farmers’ market of locally grown product direct from the farmer seven days a week in our stores,” said Produce Manager Brian Collegnon, Rueben’s County Market, Hartford, Wis., at the United Fresh Produce Show retailer managers award panel.
Farmers’ markets also connect real people to products. Farm representatives are available to talk about their products and offer samples.
Shoppers may be drawn to this type of product information because only 23% of consumers said they knew a lot about where the produce they buy comes from.
Retailers can bring shoppers up to speed by working with suppliers to better represent the origin of product items — through in-store visits, point of sale materials and increased demoing.