What Consumers Are Missing

Increasing fresh sales by expanding the "consumption set"

Published in the March 2013 Issue Published online: Mar 22, 2013 Don Ladhoff, USPB Retail Marketing Consultant

When the USPB reviewed the findings in late 2010 of a consumer segmentation study we had commissioned, we noted survey questions had polled consumers on how frequently they prepared fresh potatoes, as well as asking the number of fresh potato types they used.

Curious, we asked our research agency, Sterling Rice Group, to cross-tab the responses to these questions to see whether we could determine whether a correlation existed between using more potato types and consuming more potatoes. Our agency discovered there was definitely a relationship-and a very strong one at that.

Recently, we took our investigation further and asked Nielsen Perishables Group (NPG) to help us quantify the relationship between the number of potato types used and potato purchase behavior, using their access to shopper loyalty card information. They looked at the fresh potato purchases of 31 million households over an entire full year, identifying which households were using 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-plus types of potatoes and determining the expenditures on fresh potatoes, as well as total groceries for each segment.

NPG's analysis determined the great majority of U.S. households (73 percent) only use two or fewer types of potatoes over the course of a year. (This number is slightly smaller when looking strictly at the USPB's consumer target: 65 percent of Linda households are using two or fewer types, meaning that 35 percent of Linda households use 3-plus potato types vs. 27 percent for all U.S. households). But just as our previous research had suggested, NPG found that as households use more fresh potato types, they spent more and purchased a greater volume of potatoes.

The opportunity this shows for increasing fresh potato sales is clear and very compelling. By introducing shoppers to potato types they are not currently using-hence, expanding their "consumption set"-we can expect to see increases in their overall consumption and purchases of fresh potatoes.

Yet there are barriers to overcome-with barely more than one-quarter of fresh potato households currently using three or more types, we will be attempting to change the behavior of nearly three out of every four shoppers.

Encourage your retail customers to capitalize on the opportunity that exists for increasing potato category purchases by leveraging four areas to drive sales of additional potato types:

 Information - help shoppers understand the differing qualities of potato types by including more information in their circular ads and on potato packaging, as well as through signage at the potato table.

 Inspiration - offer shoppers savory suggestions for new ways to enjoy different potato types through the use of recipe cards and QR codes at the potato table, and by incorporating preparation ideas into their print advertising and digital destinations.

 Promotions - implement promotional offers that leverage (and protect) russet volume while incenting the trial of additional potato types, such as "Buy a five-pound bag of yellow potatoes and get a five-pound bag of Russets FREE."

 Sampling - use in-store demos to create interest and spur added sales. Nothing is more effective at driving trial of new potato types than letting shoppers taste what they've been missing! 

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