PMA Acts to Grow Produce Consumption

Oct 21, 2010

By Ron Margulis

It’s the purpose of every trade association, or at least
it should be — to help companies in the industry grow their business profitably.
At the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Annual Convention earlier this week,
the association’s
president, Bryan Silbermann, said the industry is in a bit of a funk and then
challenged the group of growers and shippers to be more innovative in their
efforts to build sales.

“In spite of all the social trends going our way, overall consumption
of produce shows few signs of growth. To be sure, some categories within our
sector have seen big gains, but overall we have a long way to go. Consumers
are still not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables, and many give safety
and cost as main concerns,” he said in his opening keynote address.

the government is trying to make consumption easier via the use of tax breaks
to encourage retail outreach in low-income areas, Mr. Silbermann called on
the industry to “improve the standards of flavor for our products,
especially fruit. We also need to show consumers how to use vegetables in tasty
new ways and combinations.”

He cited companies like Del Monte Fresh, which
has been successful in getting produce snacks into vending machines. He also
said it is important to reclaim a direct connection with the shopper and understand
that the produce industry doesn’t just compete within the produce aisle
but with the other parts of the store.

“We’ve focused for so long on getting what we grow to the consumer,
we forgot the authentic power of communicating the why of this industry,” he
said. “It’s time to change … time to realize that many people
don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Discussion Questions: What will it take for produce companies to grow their
business over the next few years? What retailers do you think are doing the
best job of growing produce consumption?

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4 Comments on "PMA Acts to Grow Produce Consumption"

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Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
10 years 6 months ago

People tend to act in relation to their perceptions and how they have been indoctrinated. Fresh produce is seen as being healthy but not necessarily tasty. Just consider how tasty, fast and fun made McDonald’s thrive even though their outputs may hasten the road to nowhere.

Mr. Silbermann is right when he states that it would be beneficial if the growers were more innovative and could improve the standards of produce flavor–and sell the fun in the eating fresh produce–as well as also focusing on being competitive with every other food sold in the store not just items in the produce department.

Cathy Hotka
10 years 6 months ago

Produce companies can grow sales by putting their products into underserved areas. A recent swing through colleges revealed vending machines filled with cheese curls, sugary sodas, and candy bars. Many inner cities have no fresh food at all. Innovative thinking will increase profits and help the country.

Anne Howe
10 years 6 months ago
Finding more innovative ways to convince the shopper to use more produce is indeed challenging. What we do know is that lecturing consumers about eating healthier is not always a good solution. Flavor and taste inspires healthy eating more often than lecturing consumers about why they should eat better. That said, produce companies should and can focus on more creative marketing and distribution formats that give more people more options more often. A recent effort has been made by by the growers association in the carrot industry that is noteworthy. Not only have they targeted younger kids with the Extreme Baby Carrots ad campaign, they’ve focused on better packaging design for an expanded distribution program in school vending machines. This is a good example of what consumers will respond to that has none of the “lecture” messaging that shoppers aren’t responding to anyway. This link has the story of the current effort. I also give a nod of appreciation to those retailers who have self-service sampling stations in the produce section. My local Kroger store… Read more »
Odonna Mathews
Odonna Mathews
10 years 6 months ago

The produce industry can grow sales by focusing on themes and products that are of importance to consumers. An emphasis on taste, convenience, health, local, and price are all important. When retailers promote produce in season at a reasonable price, consumers are more likely to buy these products. Product sampling, easy cooking/preparing instructions are helpful. Engaging the produce staffers to actually talk with consumers about “what’s new” or “what’s in season” promotes sales and adds a personal touch to the shopping experience.

Wegmans is one supermarket that stands out with its online cooking videos, extensive in-store and website consumer information, and informed employees. Other supermarkets are doing store tours for children and promoting produce as part of a healthful diet.

I recently stopped at Target and saw their “fresh food” concepts. So there is all types of competition. If we can get more retailers to promote produce (fresh, canned or dried) with easy and tasty meals consumers can make for dinner that night, the industry will surely win. And so will our customers.


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