Retail Market Demand for Local Frozen Produce

CISA surveyed 10 small retailers and conducted interviews with two retailers. The short retail survey assessed 1) current frozen product mix; 2) interest in local frozen products; 3) perceived willingness of customers to pay more for local frozen product; 4) ordering and delivery frequency, vendor requirements, and additional challenges, such as freezer space.

In this small sample of stores, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries topped the list of frozen fruits sold, while peas, corn and broccoli were the highest-volume frozen vegetables.

Respondents to the survey were enthusiastic about the market for locally grown frozen produce. “I would jump at this in a heartbeat,” one buyer noted. “The product would sell itself because it’s local.” Nine of the ten respondents indicated that their customers would choose local organic frozen products, while eight felt that their customers would choose local conventionally grown products, in preference to products grown elsewhere.

Many respondents also felt that their customers would be willing to pay more for locally grown frozen produce; seven of ten respondents felt that customers would pay more for organic local frozen products, and six of ten for conventional local frozen products. Estimates of how much more varied quite widely, from “up to $.25” to “up to $1.00.” One buyer noted, too, that price is important even to customers who are committed to shopping local. He believed that sales of a local product might be generally strong, even at a higher price, but would suffer when national brands went on sale, especially because sale prices on these products can be quite low.

Survey respondents indicated that packaging and delivery are important. Retail buyers are accustomed to frequent delivery; eight of ten respondents receive frozen products once a week or more often. Packaging attributes mentioned by retailers included inclusion of a UPC code in order to facilitate tracking of sales. Frozen sales or storage space constraints could make it more difficult for a majority of stores to add new frozen products. Most stores do not have slotting fees or minimum order sizes.

Retail customers are accustomed to buying individually frozen product. Individual quick freeze equipment is expensive and not currently available in the Pioneer Valley. Although institutional buyers are also accustomed to buying loose, individually frozen items, they are more likely to cook a large quantity at once, so this change in product quality may not be as significant for these buyers.

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