The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

What Do Consumers Want?

What Do Consumers Want?

Shoppers and Trends

April 24, 2011

One of the greatest challenges food industry members face is one of figuring out how to tap into consumer desires. After all, if suppliers know what consumers want, then they will be better able to provide shoppers with items they crave. 

Consumer trends change rapidly, and research can be costly, time consuming and often misleading if not applied in context. Still, more and more companies are looking to expand access to consumer information and trends in an effort to improve their businesses and foster improved client satisfaction.

Discovering what consumers want is a challenge that Apio, Inc. is tackling head on. Leading this effort is Ron Midyett, President and Chief Executive Officer of Apio, Inc. Bringing over 20 years of technology and operations experience with him, Midyett enhances Apio, Inc.’s position as a provider of leading technology and a year-round supply of high quality vegetables to the fresh-cut produce industry specializing in consumer-driven products for retail and club stores nationwide. 

Midyett says that there are typically two avenues that his company utilizes to determine consumer wants. First is through their current supply chain partners – customers, brokers, suppliers – who are in and connected to the market and are able to identify consumer trends that fit well with Apio’s capabilities. Second is through trend research. What is hot in restaurants and food magazines are often leading indicators for value added produce product ideas.

The next step is working with retailers. Some retailers do not want to be involved in the development process and just want to see the final product, says Midyett, while others may want to take a more collaborative approach in the product development process. They will provide their input on new product characteristics to more closely match the needs of their consumer demographic. 

“We prefer the second approach because, despite it being more work, it typically creates a more vested interest in making the product a success in the marketplace,” says Midyett.

One of the most consistent drivers in the produce department is the economy and the search for value. Consumers are always looking for healthy, convenient items at a value to help them with home meal preparation. Midyett points out that they do see consumers seeking savings by moving to smaller sized packages and engaging in more active participation with promotional opportunities. But taste is an important factor in determining purchases.

“While the search for value is strong, consumers are not forgetting about the eating experience. People are looking for bold flavors and hearty offerings that stand out on the plate,” says Midyett. “Butternut squash and Brussels sprouts are two new Apio items that have done well in this environment.”

Meanwhile, weather related sourcing issues have been significant for the last six months. For Apio’s operations, consistent cold and wet weather in the Western U.S. and Mexico have resulted in crop failures, reduced yields and quality problems. This has created very short supplies and very high markets for their raw materials. For the consumer, however, the impact has been minimal as value added products are sold on a year-round, fixed price basis.

And as for getting consumers to simply eat more produce? That is a separate challenge entirely. Even with all the research out there on obesity and the relationship between fruits, vegetables and health, consumers sometimes miss the boat. Midyett says consumers need more well-rounded messaging to truly encourage an increase of fruits and veggies in the diet, and not just messages focused exclusively on health.

“People consistently indicate that they want to be healthy and eat more produce, however, their actions don’t always follow,” adds Midyett. “It’s our job to find out what consumers want from their fresh produce, address their need to eat healthy products and deliver on it in a value-conscious, timely and innovative way.”