Aug 24, 2018
Analyst: Apples remain a winner in shifting food paradigm

Food retail is being disrupted and the definition of convenience is shifting, according to a leading food analyst who spoke Aug. 23 at the U.S. Apple Association’s 2018 Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago. In other food trends, fresh fruit, including apples, has been one of the winners over the last decade and is expected to continue.

According to Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at the NPD Group, consumer shifts in snacking to more healthy foods has boded well for fresh fruits like apples. Fruit remains among the top 10 of overall consumed items.

“Ninety-one percent of apples are eaten as is,” Seifer told USApple conference attendees. “The peak time for consumers to eat apples is at lunch, which comprises 35 percent of all apple consumption.”

As for the popularity of apple varieties, according to Seifer, Honeycrisp apple sales to distributors have posted double digit growth during the last two years, demonstrating restaurants’ desire to provide customers with premium varieties and new flavor profiles.

“This research demonstrates what we’ve always known, that apples are a nutritious grab-and-go snack and meal addition,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “It also shows that there is great opportunity for the industry to provide consumers with new ideas and opportunities on how to incorporate apples into their diets in other varied ways.”

In other trends, according to Seifer, the biggest challenge for the food industry will be its ability to adapt to the changing consumer environment, which includes an uptick in online purchasing, growth in individualism health trends and transparency in brand.

“Online food retail is in the infancy stage,” said Seifer. “If it were a baseball game, we would be in the second inning.”

The biggest barrier, he said, is consumers want to personally select their own food items. What will be important is the food industry’s ability to adapt and find ways through technology to provide consumers a means to see and select their fresh fruit or other grocery items through the online shopping experience. Within the last month, 16 percent of adult consumers purchased edible groceries online. Significantly, the repeat rate of consumers who use an online grocery is 72 percent.

As health trends evolve, consumers are looking more toward finding ways to individually cater their diets to what best fits them. “Today’s health trend for consumers is proving you’re authentic and wholesome,” said Seifer. “It’s more about individualism. Brands must find a way to appeal to that individualism.”

Another common thread of emerging food trends among consumers is wanting to know what’s going on behind the brand. Food businesses that can show transparency and social responsibility will be ahead of the curve, said Seifer.

Gary Pullano, FGN Managing Editor

Photo above: Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at the NPD Group, speaks at the USApple Outlook event in Chicago. Photo: Gary Pullano

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