Moving Forward in Fresh: 2021 and Beyond


2020 was a year of highs and lows—particularly for supermarket fresh departments. When it came to sales, in-stock rates, and customer buying habits across perimeter departments, grocery stores struggled to keep up. A recent survey we conducted with Supermarket News showed that fresh food was a must-have for many but it isn’t always easy for shoppers to find, a situation many of us are familiar with. The changes customers and grocery chains adapt to during volatile, unpredictable time shines a light on how agile grocers really can be...and how they can prepare for inevitable changes and future disruptions.

Here are three top challenges supermarkets may face in the coming years:

Customer experience priority: Quality and freshness (62%)

When asked what their customers wanted most, 62% of respondents said freshness is top of mind. For many grocery stores, over-ordering is a primary tactic for reducing stockouts. But instead of giving customers a better overall experience, produce managers are sacrificing shelf life for full shelves as excess produce sits in backrooms for longer. To address this, grocery stores will need technology that’s designed to keep displays full with fresher items by ordering every item at the right amount and the right time.

Sales volume expectations: Increases in the next 12 months (47%)

Fresh departments were a large driver of sales in 2020 and grocery retailers don’t expect that to slow down anytime soon. With a broader focus on stocking the variety and quality the customer wants, grocers will need to “challenge conventional wisdom in order to leverage this important area of the store.”

Biggest fear: Attracting and retaining qualified employees (31%)

Hiring shortages make a huge impact on the quality of a fresh department. Perishable expertise isn’t something that’s easy to pick up and many grocers have relied on veteran staff for expertise when it comes to stocking the right amount of each item. Tools that assist store teams with ordering, forecasting, and store management will drive efficiency and expertise as grocery stores onboard employees new to fresh.

Moving Forward in Fresh Infographic
Find more resources here.

Particularly in perishables, variety is expected and appreciated. There’s no telling what the next year will bring, and Afresh is built with that uncertainty in mind. When supermarkets leverage fresh-first solutions, they can compete with big box retailers without sacrificing the quality customers expect from their neighborhood grocery store.

See the 2021 Fresh Survey results here.