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Fresh vs. Center: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

When you take a look into the shopping carts of U.S. consumers, you’re likely to find fewer packaged goods and more fresh produce, meats, seafood and dairy. U.S. fresh food sales have gone up in the last four years, at a rate of 5%, according to Nielsen’s The State of Fresh: Are Fresh Foods Stealing Sales from Non-Fresh Foods? In another study, the Nielsen Global Health and Wellness report, a primary driver for these sales is an interest in healthy and natural eating that can help us lose weight.

The report goes on to note that the growth in the fresh perimeter departments of a supermarket (including meat, produce, bakery, seafood, and deli) is outgrowing center-store mainstays, including dry and frozen grocery. The report argues that some retailers and suppliers are misinterpreting the new demand for fresh as the reason consumer packaged goods have softening sales.

The report cites that the growth of fresh vegetables to $20 billion (a 5% increase year over year) could be a partial reason for the slow decline of canned and frozen vegetables, but the researchers at Nielsen don’t believe it is the primary driver for the drop:

“But a vegetable buyer is a vegetable buyer regardless of the aisle, as 88% of all shoppers purchase fresh, frozen and canned vegetables, creating tremendous opportunity for retailers and suppliers for partnerships and creative marketing and promotion strategies across aisles.”

Retailers can benefit from reducing their reliance on the old “fresh-vs.-center” mentality to cross-promote items. Featuring canned dried beans near the salad rack or placing an avocado display near the tortilla chips are ways to help the sales of both center aisle and fresh departments. The two categories don’t need to cannabalize each other’s sales; rather, with the right synergies, the two can promote each other and help boost sales for the entire store.