“Historically, we have always thought of the perimeter of the store as this generic playground where people shop for apples. They are not necessarily looking for a specific brand of apples. But that is reversing,” so that brands that previously dominated the center store are now driving growth around the edge of the store as well, Jordan Rost, vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen, said during a recent webinar focused on 2018 trends.
He explained that the “vast majority of growth from potatoes, cut vegetables and even avocados are coming from branded goods,” but that the shift is particularly sharp for cauliflower, which is enjoying a resurgence of consumer interest.
“While the category of whole fresh cauliflower is growing pretty strong at 1.5% over the last year, we see that amplified by the growth of branded cauliflower growing nearly five times as fast,” he noted, explaining that this is driven by value-added versions of the vegetable, such as cauliflower rice.
“We see this playout not just in cauliflower. There has been really strong growth in all sorts of different vegetables as rice or pasta alternatives, and I think we will continue to see that pay out in the next year or so,” he added.
Consumers’ focus on cauliflower also shows how shopping styles are changing more broadly so that people are less focused now on categories and more on specific ingredients, Rost said.
He explained that consumer demand for cauliflower as an ingredient is “creating some outsized growth in a number of key areas. Baby food is certainly one of them, refrigerated side dishes, so making that something that is more accessible to consumers is something that is a huge opportunity for retailers and brands alike.”
For retailers looking to capitalize on this shopping shift, Rost suggested creating an aisle where products from different categories are grouped together by trends – such as cauliflower. This exercise also would reveal to manufacturers where the disruption is occurring and what a trend across the entire landscape means for the longevity of it in a specific category.
What is the next cauliflower?
While Rost doesn’t know what the next cauliflower or Greek yogurt or break-out ingredient will be, he said there are factors and traits that could signal where consumers will next flock.
The first is value-added appeals, he said. “We see value added in vegetables where they are precut, so like a produce butcher where you are really getting that experience of the process being put front and center in front of you and getting access to the types of produce you might not have thought about before,” Rost said.
The second signal that a product could be about to break out is if it hits multiple macro trends at the same time, he said. For example, beverages that check added health functionality, such as probiotics, and have reduced sugar.
He explained that kombucha that is sweetened with stevia instead of sugar grew 111% in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 4, illustrating that “it is not enough just to say that kombucha is an emerging trend, but what happens when we layer that on top of this ingredient-minded focus. We see some incredibly strong growth of over 100%. So, thinking about where these different health trends and broader trends meet can be really powerful to perception.”
The third influential factor that could sway whether a product or category will see growth is clean label. Rost explained that this trend cuts across categories so even in aisles that are contracting, such as candy where dollar sales of conventional options are down 2.7%, but dollar sales are up 4.8% for confections with clean ingredients.
Reflecting on what this means for retailers and manufacturers overall, Rost said that the appeal of clean label and these other two factors are “blurring the lines between categories,” and between the perimeter of the store, fresh foods and center store packaged foods” to create potential growth and drive food traffic.