The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) recently hosted a leadership breakfast in Centurion where industry role-players discussed the latest trends in South Africa’s fresh produce market. One of the speakers was Bolutife Onaneye of Euromonitor in Cape Town. She gave an overview of important consumer trends in the local and international markets the industry should be aware of.

Bolutife Onaneye of Euromonitor in Cape Town.

Health consciousness meets convenience

According to Onaneye, the health and wellness trend is still influencing consumers’ buying patterns and fresh produce will remain trendy. Consumers are more health conscious than ever and want to know, for example, how high the sugar content of a specific apple might be. Health and wellness will continue to be an important trend for the fresh produce industry as over 50% of South Africans are obese.

With 41% of fresh produce sold in supermarkets, it remains a convenient place for consumers to buy their fresh produce as well as other products. Being able to get everything in one place indicates that the trend of convenience also applies to the South African market. This especially applies to supermarkets where the trends of health and wellness and convenience meet. Consumers want healthy meals that are also convenient. This includes ready-made salads and fresh juices that are made in-store.

Low prices always a requirement

However, price also has a visible effect. Consumers want healthy food that is convenient yet affordable. Onaneye says the prices of fresh produce are generally quite stagnant, because consumers perceive it as a staple product (the price cannot increase). This creates a challenging situation for producers as consumers expect prices to remain low despite possible increases in input costs.

Supermarkets are regarded as a place where high-quality, fresh produce can be bought at good prices. Supermarket retailers push fresh produce sales by offering discount deals when buying a combination of produce. For example, special deals such as buy two for the price of three, or combo deals that combine certain vegetable options such as cabbage, potatoes and salad produce, are offered.

Environmental awareness and packaging

Consumers in the European Union (EU) want to eat food that has been produced closer to home, as these items have a smaller carbon footprint than those that needs to be transported over large distances. Another issue is food waste. Approximately 30% of fresh produce is wasted globally and consumers are increasingly concerned over this figure. They also worry about how food is produced and want to know, for example, what effect pesticides has on fresh produce. Sustainable production is also important. Consumers want to buy produce from producers who are conscious of the resources, such as water, they use.

Packaging is a key topic in South Africa. Consumers want fresh produce producers and retailers to move away from single use plastic. However, looking for and implementing alternatives are often a cumbersome task, as the research and development necessary to find alternatives are costly and time consuming. Some plastic can be recycled and although consumers often want to recycle, there are no, or very few, accessible points for recycling available. When it comes to packaging and recycling, the EU is shifting away from the three R’s, namely recycle, reuse, and reduce. They are now embracing the new R’s: repair, rethink, and refuse. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit