The produce industry needs to get much better at innovating in order to keep the shopper engaged and the cash registers ringing up fruit and vegetable sales. Specifically, growers, shippers and retailers need to draw on the model of Silicon Valley and the hi-tech world to better understand consumers to create incremental demand for produce. That was one of the key messages at the 64th annual PMA Fresh Summit Convention and Exposition in New Orleans last week.
"This morning I set out to hold up a mirror to you, to challenge and hopefully inspire you, to suggest different ways of thinking about what you do — and most of all, why you do it," Bryan Silbermann, the association's president and CEO, said in his opening address.
Mr. Silbermann cited companies like Apple and Amazon as examples of thinking beyond the box. The industry has reached a tipping point for the implementation of the Produce Traceability Initiative, he said. It's time to use the improved transparency to create greater value and build the flow of information for the industry so they can improve marketing knowledge from farm to fork. He gave this quote from PMA director Ellie Grant: "Traceability insights will enable retailers to make smarter choices about their sourcing and receiving process, reducing shrink and markdowns and optimizing freshness and quality which ultimately will result in improved shopper loyalty."
Mr. Silbermann also said the industry has not focused enough attention and resources on demand creation. Companies need to start thinking of themselves as marketers, not just farmers and category managers. They need to play to the emotions of customers to be artists and artisans. He also suggested taking a page or two out of the playbooks of the snack food markers to use data to better understand the consumer and create fruit and vegetable passion.
What action will have the greatest impact on expanding produce sales in the next five years?