Tantalizing that tomato shopper

by Mike Mauti, Jan 10, 2023

In a produce popularity contest, few products perform better than tomatoes. After bananas and apples, the perennial household favorites, tomatoes typically go toe-to-toe with potatoes, carrots and onions jockeying for position in the shopping cart.

In our latest round of consumer research at Execulytics, tomatoes edged out all three to capture the third-highest level of household penetration. A staggering 3 out of 5 grocery shoppers report purchasing tomatoes.

This outcome is not entirely surprising given their versatility. They work equally well in a salad or on a sandwich; as a snack or as part of a meal; in solid or liquid form. Given how many uses there are and how many different tastes they can satisfy, it’s no wonder tomatoes rank third in the department and tops for vegetables.

To capitalize on the opportunity presented to us by tomato customers, we must know just who we are dealing with. For one, there is a good chance that the tomato customer is female. That is not to say that male tomato customers are rare, because 1 in 2 males report being a tomato customer. But that pales in comparison to the 2 in 3 females who report the same.

And again, while all age groups report purchasing tomatoes, older demographics do so in much greater numbers as demonstrated in Figure 1, detailing tomato household penetration indexed by age group. Add it all together and we find that 76% of females 50 or older report purchasing tomatoes. Simply put, if you see a person that matches this description in the grocery store, the chances are pretty good she has tomatoes in her shopping cart.

The real prize is knowing how to ensure that shopping cart roams around your grocery store. What makes the tomato consumer tick? Not surprisingly in these inflationary times, price is important — not just for tomatoes, but for the entire produce department.

To cater to this tomato-loving, mature female, be right on price. Although price is an important merchandising attribute for many shoppers, price is a more acute roadblock for the tomato purchaser.

Only 2 out of 5 from the non-tomato crowd indicate price is standing in the way of a fruit or vegetable purchase. That number jumps to three in five with our select consumer group.

While price may deter a purchase, taste is encouraging one with our select tomato crowd. Taste influences a repeat purchase of a fruit or vegetable product for 80% of members in this group. Compare that to only 57% of those who do not purchase tomatoes.

Produce merchants, here is some advice: Stay competitively priced on your produce, and offer tasty tomatoes. This should earn you top marks among the primary tomato-purchasing demographic and allow you to attract this large customer base to your store.

Mike Mauti is the founder and managing partner of Execulytics, a consulting firm for produce professionals, and one of our 2021 Packer 25 honorees. He worked for Loblaw Cos. For 20 years, serving as a produce category manager, director and eventually merchandising, operations and analytics.

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