Consumers’ desire to eat better is having a strong impact across the fresh food sector from produce to prepared foods to meal kits, according to recent Nielsen research.  “In the fresh food space, the four trends offering the most opportunity at a macro level are transparency, convenience, health, and snacking,” Nielsen said.

Demand for transparency, which consumers most strongly associate with sustainability-related claims, according to Nielsen, is becoming not only a “nice-to-have” for products, but simply the cost of doing business.

Sustainability, which sits within the broader tropic of transparency, is becoming increasingly important to many consumers.  Sales figures prove it, Nielsen said. “We have seen a 20 percent increase in sustainable product sales since 2014,” according to the Nielsen study.  In addition, in 2018, sustainable products accounted for 22 percent of total store sales.

Dollar sales of fresh department organics, another certification closely tied to sustainability among consumers, grew 9 percent last year, accounting for 40 percent of total food growth across the store.  Sustainable packaging has also become important as 4,000 new produce products with sustainable or recyclable packaging were introduced last year, a 4.1 percent increase from the previous year.

Convenient fresh food is gaining traction as consumers search for pre-made fresh food offerings.  Dollar sales of meal kits increased 47 percent between 2017 and 2018, increasing household penetration from 9 percent to 12 percent.

Another driver of fresh, convenient food products is the 8 percent increase in U.S. consumers reporting that the follow a specific diet as part of a “healthy lifestyle.”

“In line with our quest for shortcuts and time-savers, many consumers have adopted regular snacking regiments given that they can be quick, easily prepared and take less time to eat than a full meal.  In some cases, consumers are replacing full meals with snacks, Nielsen stated.

Consumers are also broadening their fresh food horizons with globally-inspired products.  “The U.S. is growing more culturally diverse as each new year comes along, and that diversity is having a notable impact on food preferences.  In addition to seeing greater Hispanic influence across America flavor profiles, we’re also seeing the influence of Asian products as well, Nielsen noted.