Each month Produce Business magazine takes an in-depth look at the latest topics of importance to the trade and invites researchers to present their findings in our "Research Perspective" column. Immediately following Produce Business Editor-in-Chief, Jim Prevor analyzes the research presented and identifies its value to the trade.


Research Perspective and Comments & Analysis

Value-Added Answers Desire To Do Things Quicker, Without Compromising On Quality — Meal Plans Allow Students To Demand Fresh And Sustainable At No Cost

In college, most students confront meal-purchasing situations they will rarely encounter again in their lives. Those students on meal plans — which is most of what we are talking about here — have had their food prepaid. This allows the students to both request — even demand — things from their university foodservice programs without any financial consequences.

October, 2017

More Produce Potential: Combined Benefits For Mental Health And Smoking Cessation — Only More Research Will Prove A Causal Relationship

In the many years these analyses of research have been written, there have been countless glimmers of hope citing new and compelling reasons for people to eat more produce. Yet, in the end, only the fewest have come to be “generally accepted.” The reason is found in one word: associated.

September, 2017

Watermelon Featured On One In Ten U.S. Menus — Small Things Make A Big Difference

The news about watermelon is great. It especially bodes well for watermelon growers, the produce industry at large and for consumers who are experiencing watermelon more frequently when dining out. What it means for the future of produce consumption overall is uncertain.

August, 2017

Grapes & Health: Research Findings — Infusion Of Health Message Is Good For Grape Sales

The California Table Grape Commission deserves recognition for its willingness to encourage research of high quality. In the end, this means taking a risk that, sometimes, researchers will not find the results the grape industry might hope for. But only by allowing researchers to publish the results, come what may, can the research have credibility or the industry attract the best researchers. Of course, the grape industry has been fortunate as most of the research has, in fact, pointed to the possibility that grapes offer many positive health benefits.

July, 2017

Avocado Category Reflects A Unique Demographic Profile — Knowing Behavioral Habits Is Key To Success

Yes, avocados are a product with the wind very clearly at the back of the industry. It would be a terrible shame to not use this opportunity, this “learning moment,” to encourage people who rarely or never eat avocados to begin doing so now. The best way to make this happen is to use the demographics revealed in this study as a foundation for deeper behavioral research.

June, 2017

The Voice Of The Customer: Meeting And Beating Expectations — You Can't Please Everyone

What can it possibly mean when 68% of Baby Boomers, 66% of Millennials and 62% of all shoppers say they want produce departments to offer a “better variety of produce items”? Surely it can’t mean they want to see more items? Not when a typical produce department carries hundreds of SKUs. Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, suggests it must mean consumers want stores to carry the right items. This is surely true, but, of course, leaves open the question of what, exactly, are the right items?

May, 2017

Seafood And Vegetarian Diners Seek Innovative Plant-based Dishes — Will Today’s Restaurant Reality Yield To A Plant-based Future?

Do most consumers today really strive to eat more healthfully? Are consumers yearning for blackened, smoked and charred vegetables to take center stage on their plates? Certainly some consumers act this way, and the Technomic study highlights this cohort of diners. But in reading these types of studies, one has to remember we have no statistical information that indicates produce consumption is on the upswing. Our best data is disappearance data – production minus exports plus imports – and that has been basically flat for years.

April, 2017

Implications for Fresh Produce In Consumer Snacking Research — Usage Focus Is Key To Increased Consumption

Is the future really bright for chili-lime-seasoned baby carrots and similar items? Maybe in percentage of sales increases, since the base is so small, but count me as skeptical in terms of mainstreaming these types of items. Whatever people say in their survey responses, it is often the case that consumer preferences expressed in survey research are not fulfilled in actual commerce.

March, 2017

Value-Added Answers Desire To Do Things Quicker, Without Compromising On Quality — Revolution In Food Industry Requires Evolution

The issue is not just making things ever more convenient; it is doing so in a clever way and finding opportunities to market products in such a way that buying and serving them is fulfilling for the consumer.

February, 2017

Online Produce-Purchasing Future Looks Promising — Only The Innovative Will Survive

The business lesson here is that execution trumps almost anything. So it goes with produce purchased online. If online retailers execute well, always deliver what is promised and often exceed customer expectations… if they provide effective solutions to consumer problems, well, in all likelihood online sales will boom.

January, 2017

Produce As Wingman: Can Drive Deli Sales, Traffic — Produce Is Key Ingredient To Fresh-Food Department Vibe

It is not so much that trial in the produce department will lead consumers to buy at the deli but vice versa. Consumers, who never thought of putting pomegranate arils on a salad, could buy a “health salad” in the deli, find they like the taste and start buying packages of arils in produce.

December, 2016

First to Market Owns the Market: Emerging Merchandising Trends in Produce — Much More Than Meets The Eye

“According to FMI, retailers see product and merchandising innovation as the No. 1 way to drive top line growth and differentiation in a deflationary marketplace. This was ahead of pricing and promotional strategies, in second.” Retailers are almost certainly correct in this assessment. So one would expect retailers’ procurement policies would focus heavily on supporting those producers that are highly regarded for product and merchandising innovation. In fact, however, the opposite is true; retailers are increasingly focusing on private label. Now why is this?

November, 2016

Marketing Vegetables in Elementary School Cafeterias To Increase Uptake — Research Leads To 10 More Questions

This research basically tests whether marketing can be successful with children in school when it comes to produce. Not surprisingly, children and fresh produce are not exempt from the many techniques that industry spends billions on every year to maintain and to change procurement habits. As with all good research, this project raises many questions for further study.

October, 2016

The Power Of Produce On Kids' Menus — Fundamental Challenges To Kids' Consumption Of Fruits And Vegetables

There are fundamental challenges that make increasing produce consumption among kids difficult. Most notably, it is one thing to boost consumption of sweet snack fruit, since kids typically enjoy fruit, so feeding them fruit can be done with increased availability. However, many of the most nutrient-dense produce items are bitter and less appealing to a child’s palate.

September, 2016

Driving Fresh Mushroom Category Growth — Increase Consumption One Item At A Time

It is fair to say that the premise behind these kinds of promotional programs is some combination of education and affiliation with beloved characters will lead to increased produce consumption. Unfortunately, the evidence for any rise in produce consumption is thin. Despite decades of efforts, we can’t point to an increase in consumption that has been prompted by this approach. Now, the Mushroom Council offers the industry a different approach. Is it possible that money invested in product development could be more effective in boosting consumption than generic promotional efforts?

August, 2016

Millennial Avocado Buyers Outspend Other Households — Perfect Storm Accounts For Avocado Success

Avocado sales boomed because of a perfect storm: A growth in immigration by ethnic groups that love avocados; a change in merchandising to allow the sale of pre-ripened, ready-to-eat avocados; a boom in cuisines that use avocados; a health message encouraging consumption; and regulatory changes that allowed for imports from Mexico to spread across the country. Moving marketing to the next level will mean studying the research more shrewdly.

July, 2016

Produce Fresh Trends 2016 — Nutritional Info Is A Moving Target

As we evaluate produce sales, it is worth keeping in mind that many treat the subject as some kind of moral arc bending inevitably toward goodness, so produce — healthful and fresh — must inevitably triumph. This is a beautiful thought, but there is not much evidence that it is true. As an industry we have to be careful where we hang our hats, lest the hat stand be pulled out from under us as nutritional information evolves.

June, 2016

A Clear View Of Transparency And How It Builds Trust — Reason For Skepticism

For producers and retailers, the argument for transparency may not be directly related to sales. It is more like the argument for an open kitchen in a restaurant. The official reason may be theatre and to enhance the experience of the guests, but sotto voce, the argument is that if you do everything in public viewing, you are much less likely to see bad behavior occur or to find bad conditions tolerated.

May, 2016

Mega Trends Drive Sales, But Striking Balance Remains Important — More Than Meets The Eye

It is one thing to see increases in the sales of organic produce; it is another thing entirely to understand why those numbers are moving up. Every store is promoting organic, locally grown, regional, Product of the USA … and every survey reports consumer interest in these topics. Perhaps, however, it is all the marketing attention that creates consumer interest not vice versa.

April, 2016

Produce Consumption And Preparation: Finding Growth In New Meal Occasions — Dynamic Opportunities To Grow Consumption

Although produce as a category does have 98 percent penetration, as Anne-Marie Roerink and Rick Stein point out in their “Produce Consumption and Preparation” research, if you look at produce through the lens of the four separate offers listed, the penetration is much lower and thus the opportunity for growth more dynamic.

March, 2016

The Power Of Produce Part 2 - The Produce Purchasing Decision: Equity Drives Loyalty — Price Is Just One Variable

The role of price in produce marketing is unusual. In general, produce is highest priced when it is lowest quality because it is early season, late season, or because bad weather hurt the whole crop. We don’t have very good data to see how this interacts with consumer preference, but it turns the concept on its head that the best quality brings the highest prices on most items. Not surprisingly, though, with produce as with most things in life, price is just one variable.

February, 2016

The Produce Channel Choice - Defending Our Turf — Alternative Shopping Venues May Be Good For Supermarkets

This piece, by Anne-Marie Roerink, a principal at 210 Analytics, suggests this question: To what degree is there a fixed “fresh produce dollar”? Put another way, it is one thing to show that alternative venues are starting to take a higher share of produce purchases, but it is quite another to prove that this business would have gone to supermarkets had these venues not sold produce.

January, 2016

The Power of Produce Part 1: Before They Shop — It's What's In Store That Counts

This study gets to the core of what makes produce such an absolutely vital category for the supermarket. Produce is simultaneously a “must-have,” “pre-planned” staple and an exciting “impulse opportunity” for new trial and indulgence.

December, 2015

An Examination Of The Relationship Between Plate Waste And Food Pairings In School Meals — Let Them Choose

Sometimes we have to do research to confirm what we strongly suspect — in this case, if you serve the entrees children like best and pair them with the vegetables children like best, then the children are more likely to eat what is served — thus waste less than if you served less popular entrees and vegetables. The question is: What does this mean for the school lunch program and, more generally, for produce industry efforts to interface with schoolchildren?

November, 2015

Hispanic Acculturation And Its Impact On The Path To Purchase — Deeper Dive Needed Into Hispanic Produce Shopping

This piece leaves us in a quandary as to what produce retailers should do. It is, of course, true that as immigrants acculturate they behave differently, which means they shop differently and eat differently. And certainly in marketing and retailing, one should be aware of these differences. So this segmentation is useful. But the difficulties abound.

October, 2015

FreshFacts On Retail Report Rundown — Data And A Dose Of Experience Create Best Path To Decision-Making

There is no question that the explosion in data available about fresh produce sales at retail creates an enormous opportunity for both retailers and vendors to use this data to find more effective ways to boost produce sales. There is no decision that automatically flows from streams of sales statistics. So those who will use data best are those who leverage the experience of people long active in the trade, with new insights from collected data, to identify paths to optimal decision-making. Data doesn’t eliminate the need for experience. Data provides a new forum for experience to add value.

September, 2015

Lower Temperatures In Cases With Doors Improve Produce Quality And Safety With Reduced Energy Consumption — Study Leads To Food Safety And Quality Decisions

Retailers are stuck with this persuasive study and its implications. Namely that retailers that choose not to invest in closed-door cases for their fresh-cuts are consciously deciding to sell their customers product that is of lower quality and more likely to carry a foodborne illness. More broadly, this study points to a pivot point in food safety and produce. This study argues retailers need to turn their attention inward to how their own practices contribute to food-safety risk.

August, 2015

How Fresh Produce Plays Key Role In New Generation Of Delivery Services — Poised For Growth

Much like selling to foodservice depends crucially on influencing the menus of operators until these companies are persuaded to add these items to menus, the industry must engage with meal delivery services to highlight opportunities to use more fresh produce. After all, the Datassential research showing that consumers value fresh foods means that meal delivery services will be open to new opportunities. Yet how many produce shippers are organized to place a sales priority on this fast growing industry segment?

July, 2015

Supermarkets Increase Health & Wellness Investment -- A New Vision Of The Grocery Store

It is clear why supermarkets would want to emphasize various healthy eating objectives. The basic retail model is for supermarkets to sell what customers want to buy, which isn't typically healthy. So by emphasizing dieticians and healthy eating programs, supermarkets position themselves on the side of the angels. Yet the exact role supermarkets play in boosting health is uncertain.

June, 2015

Produce Aisle Predictions -- What Do People Really Want?

Nobody handles consumer data better than dunnhumby, so when it lays out a case that producers and marketers ought to focus on core values, one should heed its findings. Yet one is reminded of French statesman Georges Clemenceau, who repeated the common expression that the voice of the people was the voice of God and added that it was the function of leaders to follow that voice "shrewdly." Into that one word, much cynicism and skepticism was packed.

May, 2015

An Examination Of Blueberry Health Research — Industry Funding Needed To Support Research

It is always exciting to discover research that holds out hope that a particular produce item can have real health benefits. When the item is blueberries — an easy-to-eat fruit that fits in with so many convenience trends — the idea of specific health benefits coming from the item holds out the real promise of increasing produce consumption. Of course, we can’t let the cart get ahead of the horse.

April, 2015

Study Reveals Produce Consumption Depends On Food Businesses Located Near Home — Will Changing Food 'Ecosystem' Make A Difference?

If, through manipulation of public policy incentives, we can get more venues selling produce in these food-desert neighborhoods, then produce consumption would increase, the health of people in these “underserved” neighborhoods would increase, and the cost of any necessary public policy incentives to make this all possible would be paid for by healthcare savings the government realizes from a healthier population. It sounds great, but it is more a vision than a thought. There is precious little evidence that any of this actually happens.

March, 2015

Pistachios Help Prediabetics Manage Blood Glucose Levels — Five More Steps Needed To Make Real Progress

This is hopeful research, and if eating pistachios can help prevent the progression of prediabetes to full-blown diabetes, this would bode well as a major advance in public health. Alas, as is always the case, this type of research is — to paraphrase Churchill — not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end; it is not even the end of the beginning. Before we can really begin to attribute such powers to pistachios or to any other food, at least five steps must be completed.

February, 2015

Working Women Consider Healthy Produce Purchases Throughout The Workweek — Non-Working Women Need To Be Studied Too

Do working women have different needs than women who do not have paid employment? It seems like that probably would be true, but the nature, extent and even the cause is not clear. And even if the needs are different, it is not clear that it is the work in and of itself that makes them different.

January, 2015

Bundle Of Consumer Benefits Drives Sales Growth For Packaged Salads — The Meaning Of Fresh

Sometimes the interesting data is on the flip side. Here, for example, we find that with all the hullaballoo about veganism — and ambassadors such as vegan-darling, President Clinton — only 3 percent of consumers claim they seek out vegan foods. Artisanal is oh so hot and trendy, but only 3 percent of consumers report they seek out artisanal foods. The big winner shows up as “Fresh” — with 49 percent saying they seek fresh product when food shopping. The problem, though, is that the word has lots of meanings, and it is not at all clear what consumers are saying.

December, 2014

Fruit Is In Top 3 UK Kids' Snacks — Parental Guidance Suggested

It is important to survey consumers because it gives us great insight into their thought process, but it does not necessarily provide insight into behavior. In this case, surveying parents about their children’s snacking habits inherently creates a bias in response because most parents want to be perceived as good parents. Since it is widely known that produce is a healthier snack than other options, asking parents what their children snack on is not a neutral question. It is virtually identical to asking the parent if they are good parents or not.

November, 2014

Americans Are Putting Faith In Superfoods To Control Their Health — Will Superfood Items Grow Overall Produce Consumption?

If you are a producer or a marketing board representing produce that has come to be seen as a “superfood,” and if you market the dickens out of this situation, you will get a boost in sales. But it is important to understand the whole superfood phenomenon is a marketing matter, not a nutritional definition. In fact, nutritionists and dieticians don’t use such terms, mostly because there is just no evidence individual foods have an impact on human health or longevity. In other words, when parts of the produce industry harp on Superfoods, they may get a short-term bang for the buck, but they are also playing into the consumer desire for a quick fix.

October, 2014

High-Quality Produce Important In Giving Grocers Competitive Edge — Murky Attributes Impact Grocer Rankings

It is not surprising to learn that produce can be a big differentiator for stores. Obviously, branded grocery products are identical from store to store, so that whittles the big product differentiators down to private label grocery offerings with distinctive flavor, quality or value propositions and perishables. This tends to go just below the big four — location, price, cleanliness and assortment — as reasons for consumers to select one store over another. Once one gets past these fundamentals, things get murky, fast.

September, 2014

Exploring The Specialty Fruit Consumer — Specialty Today, Mainstream Tomorrow

Perhaps the most shocking — and for the produce industry, the most hopeful thing about the top-selling specialty fruit categories of the latest 52 weeks — is that pomegranates rank No. 3 — behind mango and kiwi. This is a big change. Had such a list been compiled 20 years ago, pomegranates would be included with “other specialty fruit.” So what changed? The experience with pomegranates teaches us that change in value perception and changes in the product itself are more successful methods of boosting consumption.

August, 2014

Setting The Record Straight On Pesticide Residues — Measuring Risk Is Risky Business

The issue of pesticides and produce consumption is a long running one. Before the great Spinach Crisis of 2006 brought the issue of pathogen contamination to the forefront, this columnist spent many a year traveling around the country cautioning trade and consumer groups that concerns over pesticide residues were overblown and that the real problem would be pathogens. This position was vindicated by the pathogen-related episodes of recent years. Now the pendulum of concern is swinging back to pesticides.

July, 2014

Menu Analysis Shows New Twist On Old Favorites — Looking For A Bigger Win

If the industry is going to get serious about using foodservice as a venue to boost consumption, the trade needs to invest in serious research to understand the behavioral effects of different produce offerings in restaurants. This piece of research indicates two things clearly. First, there are boundless opportunities for individual companies to promote intriguing new items in the foodservice sector. Second, this research gives precious little credence to the idea that it is easy to increase total produce consumption or that the joint PMA/NRA/IFDA effort, launched in July of 2009 to double produce consumption in foodservice, has had any impact at all.

June, 2014

Blueberries More Plentiful On Top Chain Menus, Adding Interest To Meals & Reflecting Consumer Demand — Big Lessons From Little Fruit

Blueberries are an incredible product, and one for which the stars seem to have aligned. The research highlights the trifecta of health benefits, good taste and convenience as powerful forces driving increased usage in foodservice and increased consumption overall. We would add two more factors that have contributed to their success: Innovative packaging and imports from Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand and Canada have exploded — thus making the integration of blueberries onto infrequently changing menus more plausible.

May, 2014

Conscious Consumerism Goes Mainstream — Product Satisfaction Comes First

It is useful when reading research such as this to remember that, by far, the largest restaurant chain in the United States is McDonald’s, and the fastest growing large food retail segment is the deep discount sector, with companies such as ALDI, Save-A-Lot and Dollar stores front-and-center. Or put another way, it is useful to remember that when confronted by survey data where consumers say one thing and their food-purchasing activity is the polar opposite, the reasonable thing to do is to ask why consumers choose to say such things.

April, 2014

Effects Of Hass Avocado Intake On Post-Ingestive Satiety, Glucose And Insulin Levels, And Subsequent Energy Intake In Overweight Adults — Research Complexity Opens Door To More Study

This is a very important study. Not because it impacts the whole industry, but because it reminds us how complex the whole area of dietary research is. This research is making an interesting point: that a calorie is not necessarily just a calorie. Or put another way, although seemingly it should be easy to gain or lose weight by consuming more or less calories over a person’s stasis level, some calories consumed may be more important than others.

March, 2014

Blueberry Consumers Trending Younger As Overall Consumption Rises In U.S. — Unlike Rest Of Industry, Blueberry’s Health Pitch Has Fueled Production & Demand

The blueberry success is an incredible story, but it is hard to know what the lesson is for the rest of the produce industry. Many items that we need boosted in consumption are bitter greens and don’t have the natural appeal of sweet fruits such as blueberries. Many items need to be cooked or are large and bulky. They are not the perfect snack size like the blueberry. Perhaps some new research would help to find specific health benefits, but it is not clear to what extent these specific benefits drive consumption, as opposed to a general perception that blueberries are good for you, tasty and convenient.

February, 2014

Prepared Potato Images Increase Promotional Volume For Retailer Circular Ads — Turn The Vision Into Consumption Reality

This study is fascinating and important — not just for the potato industry. There is nothing particularly surprising in the results. Why wouldn’t a photo of a beautifully cooked potato dish lead to more attention and purchasing than a picture of some bulk potatoes? They are interested in the benefit, a simple baked potato overflowing with toppings or a complex potato au gratin, and, of course, photos suggest usage that consumers might not have come up with on their own. So the challenge for the industry has to be how to not merely entice the consumer with a vision of what can be — but also the industry can benefit if we help turn that vision into a reality.

January, 2014

Vegetable Options Increase On Restaurant Menus — Opportunity For Restaurants, But Numbers Are Hard To Measure

If the restaurant industry is serious about being part of the answer to the obesity crisis, it has to create new categories of “healthy” foods that taste good. It has to use the proper ingredients and the proper culinary techniques to create food that is both good enough to be featured as part of the regular menu and healthy at the same time.

December, 2013

How Evolutions In Meal Planning Are Changing The Produce Department — Five 'Evolving' Challenges For Increasing Produce Consumption

A salad kit is easy to prepare, easy to bring to work or school, and can use interesting ingredients. If one is serving it to family, then one can easily add a personal touch with some tomatoes, cucumbers, steak or Grandma’s homemade salad dressing. So there clearly are ways that the produce industry can ride these trends. Yet, the research also points out five fundamental challenges that the produce industry faces.

November, 2013

A Closer Look At Snacking — Strategic Thinking Needed To Sync With Snacking Trends

Baby carrots are the vegetable star of the produce snack brigade and, perhaps, celery sticks pick up some business. But, on the whole, the snacking trend is not a friend to many produce items, with the fruits that are unwieldy to eat — say juicy peaches or large melons — and especially not to the salad and cooking vegetables.

October, 2013

Private Label Presence Expands In Produce — Risks Inherent In Private Labeled Produce

Private label efforts in the fresh produce department are generally a disappointment for retailers. The problem for most retailers is that the real motivation behind private label is margin enhancement. Incorporated in the price of national branded goods is an allotment to cover a multiplicity of costs. For most retailers, the idea with private label is to cut out those costs, give consumers a better price and keep some for enhanced margin. Yet this very dramatic example — almost 43 percent off for private-label spaghetti — points out the limitations.

September, 2013

Cargill Study Examines Family Purchasing Dynamics & Healthy Choices — Let Them 'Seek' Produce!

What actually drives purchase decisions is a well studied mystery. Many of these types of products mentioned in the Cargill study are impulse items. A good promotion or a new flavor can lead to different outcomes than what would have been predicted by any survey of consumers. It is also problematic that all these product categories are on consumer shopping lists even though we all know perfectly well that more healthful alternatives are available. It likely means that the produce industry has to do more than emphasize healthfulness.

August, 2013

Boosting School Kids' Familiarity With Produce May Increase Consumption — Why Not Study Obscure Items?

It is not surprising that the comeuppance of many research reports is that more research is required. This is true more often than not, and it is especially true when it is children and their perceptions that are being studied. Still this research includes several oddities.

July, 2013

Fresh Enthusiasts Versus Elusives — Can Consumer Preferences Be Changed?

This study by the Nielsen Perishables Group provides an important additional perspective for both retailers and marketers to assess business opportunities. Why do certain people buy differently, and is there anything that can be done to change these habits? If so, what can be done?

June, 2013

Substituting Mushrooms For Meat Aids In Control Of Body Weight & Treating Obesity — A Clear Concept, But Execution Is Tricky

We have had the opportunity to taste both 100 percent mushroom substitutes and blends of meat and mushrooms. The exciting news is that these options taste great — so great that chefs of high caliber are now exploring ways to use these mushrooms in all sorts of dishes. The problem, as much as anything, is a marketing one. The product tastes great, is priced well and is very versatile. The question is what is it?

May, 2013

Shopper Marketing Coming To A Produce Department Near You — Produce Variability Makes It Harder For Solution Selling

One is always wise to pay attention to Bill Bishop, and so when he gives the clarion call that produce marketers should pay attention to “shopper marketing,” one should start taking notes. Shopper marketing has varying definitions but, in essence, the idea is to look at how one’s target customers behave in their role as shoppers and then try to leverage these insights into increased sales.

April, 2013

How Four Consumer Priorities Are Driving Produce Performance — Increasing Overall Consumption Should Be The Goal

Increased consumption has to come about by changes in eating patterns, notably the replacement of protein-centric plates with produce-centric dishes in which protein serves as a flavoring. In other words, people need to switch from a steak to a stir-fry flavored with beef. Without this kind of switch, consumers may drive sales of one item or another but aren’t likely to change overall consumption patterns.

March, 2013

Boomers Grow Up Eating Their Fruits & Vegetables — An Opportunity Not To Be Missed

Certain behaviors are closely correlated to age. So the produce industry may well get in trouble as it looks over the next few decades and sees rising per-capita consumption, which is actually caused not by increased popularity of fresh produce, but by the age curve of consumers. We may declare ourselves geniuses for our marketing acumen and be totally shocked when consumption starts to drop as the high-consuming age cohort begins to be superseded by much smaller numbers.

February, 2013

Ethnic Produce Marketing: Perspectives Of Intermediaries — Opportunities In Unusual Places

It is an optimistic and earnest attitude toward business and life to go out and survey those active in the trade, find out what the obstacles are to doing business, then solve those problems and thus see business flourish and prosperity expand. It is beautiful, yet raises its own questions. This project seems to focus on an abnormality of sorts that the researchers believe exists in the marketplace. Where this abnormality exists is not 100 percent clear.

January, 2013

Strong December Produce Sales Expected — Keep Rowing Even Under Best Conditions

A rising tide may lift all boats but retail is, most decidedly, a local business, and each store competes in a unique set of circumstances, with unique competitors, unique shoppers and unique economic conditions. So while it may be soothing to know that the overall trend is with us, it would be foolish to think that such a trend guarantees our success.

December, 2012

Fresh Fruit Is The Apple Of The Snack Consumer's Eye — Time For Rest Of The Industry To Catch Convenience-Fruit Craze

It is odd. We have no evidence that overall produce consumption is expanding, yet the reputable folks over at the NPD group show that fruit is a fast growing snack. Why might this be so? Whatever the cause, the fruit industry is intersecting profitably with a growing trend toward snacking and that is for the good. Where to go from here?

November, 2012

Athletes Benefit From Bananas — Marketing Push Needed

The question of how produce ought to be promoted continues to vex the industry. One way of addressing this dilemma is to identify the health benefits of specific produce items or the health benefits of use under specific circumstances and promote in a more focused manner. This research is intriguing because it points to that type of opportunity for bananas.

October, 2012

Macro Trends Drive Produce Consumer Loyalty In The Face Of Rising Prices — Opportunity To Concentrate On Increased Sales

The impact of price inflation on retail produce sales probably has a lot to do with relative price inflation across different departments. A 3.4 percent increase in produce prices may depress produce sales, but if meat prices increase at a quicker rate, produce can become relatively less expensive, even while more expensive in an absolute sense. Here we offer four big opportunities for boosting sales.

September, 2012

Convenience Driving Increase In Processed Fruit & Vegetable Expenditures — Can Fresh Overcome Frozen & Canned Advantages?

One way research can help us do business better is by focusing our efforts on inflexion points or areas in which our efforts can make a difference. This piece of research by The Food Institute, whose data suggest that today's frugal consumer will purchase the product with the longer shelf-life and greater convenience, points to three such points.

August, 2012

Creating The Tasti-Lee Tomato: A Marriage Of Plant Breeding And Consumer Research — Model For The Future?

The Bayh-Dole Act gave universities intellectual property rights for things such as university-developed varieties of fruit. This meant that what was traditionally a kind of public service provided by land grant institutions to growers within the state now became a revenue-producing activity. Indeed, Bejo Seeds hopes to use this format as a model for its own growth: Get the rights to a proprietary variety, brand it for consumers and offer farmers a way out of the commodity trap.

July, 2012

Evaluating & Planning Promotions In An Increasingly Complex Retail Environment — Easier Said Than Done

Promotional strategies driven by real data? Deciding what to do not based on what your Uncle Louie or first boss told you 30 years ago but based on actual outcomes? This is not your father’s produce industry anymore, and this contribution by Kelli Beckel of the Nielsen Perishables Group is an important piece. It is important because hidden in the data routinely captured is the key to promotional success. Yet, “hidden” may well be the operative word.

June, 2012

Consumer Attitudes Toward Packaged Fruits & Vegetables — Are Consumers Confused About Packaging Vs. Processing?

The issue of packaging and fresh produce gets confusing fast. Partly this is because the terminology is awkward. When consumers tell researchers that the key attribute of packaged produce is its ability to preserve freshness and taste, or that convenience is the main reason they select packaged produce, one doesn’t know if they are reporting on reality or if they actually are expressing a preference for the kind of products consumers prefer to see packaged.

May, 2012

Restaurant Industry Growth Is Good News For Produce Industry — Does Sentiment For 'Local' Translate Into Sales?

Without any kind of third-party certifications and no standard definitions, one hesitates to attribute too much to consumer statements in the area of locally grown foods. Add in the propensity for survey subjects to say the “politically correct” thing, and one wonders precisely how this actually plays out in sales.

April, 2012

Produce Department Maintains Appeal Across Polarized Customers — Generalize Or Specialize? That Is The Question

The Perishables Group’s suggestion that retailers need diversity to appeal to “both ends of the polarized consumer” is obviously true if what one wants to do is offer a broad-based assortment to attract a diverse community. The more interesting question, though, is whether that really makes much sense any more as a business strategy. Maybe the thing to do is specialize.

March, 2012

The Influence Of Price Discount Versus Bonus Pack On The Preference For Virtue & Vice Foods — Vice Vs. Virtue In Perishables

The question of how foods can be most effectively marketed is of great importance to the food industry. The conventional wisdom, supported by some meaningful research, has long been that consumers generally prefer bonus packs to price discounts. For fresh produce marketers, the general concept of preferring a bonus quantity is an insight mostly ignored in fresh fruit and vegetable marketing.

February, 2012

National School Lunch Program Shows Promising Progress — Is An Exchange Effect Taking Place?

One can only be pleased that this research indicates that, under certain circumstances, giving away free produce boosts its consumption. One can only be disappointed that it's by a 1/4 cup per day on the day it's distributed. This study doesn't go into cost/benefit analysis, but one suspects that it will be difficult to prove that a 1/4 cup increase in produce consumption on certain days really reduces health care costs sufficiently to justify the expenditure. The study seems to have a significant flaw in its design.

January, 2012

Higher Food Prices Challenge Retail — Staying True To Brand Identity Isn’t Easy

When certain low cost retailers boom, it may indicate less of a flight to low cost retailing than a shift in market share from a giant such as Wal-Mart, which has lost its way, to competitive formats. It is also true that sometimes one has to do things to survive in the short term that severely damage a business in the long term. Deep recessions are commonly one of those times.

December, 2011

Sustainability Means "Transportation" For California’s Flower Farms — Reduced Transportation Costs Are First Step To National Marketing

Some ideas make so much sense that it is impossible to argue against them. Should California shippers attempt to negotiate collectively? Should the trade investigate the possibility of pooling shipments to generate full loads? Should producers be involved in efforts to reduce freight costs and to offer simplified pricing to buyers — the answers are yes, yes and yes!

November, 2011

Organic Produce Gaining Shelf Space, Sales — Organics Among Marketing's Sweet Spots

Steve Lutz and Kelli Beckel provide good guidance to the trade by pointing out that increased sales of organics in mainstream supermarkets may not tell us much about consumers deciding to �buy organic.� The best way to understand these purchases of organic is to see organic as a kind of �Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,� in which consumers impute all kinds of characteristics of quality that may or may not actually correspond with organic.

October, 2011

Ten (Plus One) Suggestions For Researchers

For seven years, Produce Business has published the Research Perspective/Comments & Analysis pages. When we first began, Bryan Silbermann, president & CEO at the PMA, contributed 52 articles, pertaining to the latest research commissioned by the PMA. Then we opened the doors to professors, research companies and many other organizations. Typically we respond here to specific research initiatives, but we thought it might be helpful to talk about the general issues that seem to bedevil much of the research done in the trade.

September, 2011

Produce Takes Center Stage On Restaurant Menus — The Door Is Ajar For Foodservice Sales

Survey research of a professional group is very helpful in understanding what is politically correct amongst members of the surveyed group. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily helpful in understanding what is actually happening in practice. What this research really shows is what a job the produce industry has in front of itself when it looks to bring some rationality to the approach that is now trendy among culinarians.

August, 2011

More Rollbacks: Wal-Mart Challenges Continue Wal-Mart's Era Of Great Confusion

The BlueOcean Market Intelligence Report on Wal-Mart is insightful. What it doesnt do, though, is translate into an explanation for why Wal-Marts same-store sales have been declining for two years. The issue is not whether Wal-Mart can rearrange the fixtures to be more appealing or whether Wal-Mart can tweak its assortment to better satisfy customer needs. The issue is whether Wal-Mart is prepared to lose its crown as Americas value leader.

July, 2011

How Do Consumers Respond To Advertising Programs For Fruits & Vegetables? Intriguing Start For Future Studies

The design of this study is truly ingenious and the industry really owes a debt to Professor Rickard. Yet, even if this study was definitive proof that a generic promotion program would increase produce consumption, that doesnt mean the industry would be willing to pay to conduct such a program. Increasing consumption may be a worthwhile public health goal, but for individual produce producers the issue with an investment in generic promotion is the same as with any other investment - what is the return?

June, 2011

Marketing To Baby Boomers Today Opportunities In Using New Technology

One area where Steven Muro is clearly correct is that the produce industry needs a new, more targeted marketing approach. For all of living memory, the primary marketing tool for the produce industry has been the weekly retailer best food day ad or circular. Yet as newspapers have gotten weaker and more expensive, this tool becomes less effective. Clearly, both retailers and their suppliers need new ways to reach consumers.

May, 2011

Connecting The Dots Between Produce & Health — Will It Work Outside Of Whole Foods?

The produce industry has little to complain about regarding the Whole Foods “Health Starts Here’ program — it probably has helped boost produce consumption, specifically, consumption of healthy greens. Alas, the Nutrient Density Index is not really all that useful. An item can be chock full of particular nutrients and people will drop dead if that is all they eat. Nutritional diversity — getting needed fats, protein, various vitamins and minerals, etc. — is much more important than nutrient density.

April, 2011

Health & Nutrition Claims Work For Produce: Hard, But Not Impossible To Make Money Despite Ambiguities, Ride The Health Marketing Tide

Professor Stantons article is exceptionally useful for the produce industry because so many firms and promotional organizations, and even the industry as a whole, default to health promotion without much evidence that this is particularly effective. Professor Stanton gives us a worthwhile analysis because he tells it straight. Regardless of the certainty of any health benefit, there is a marketing tide, and one should try to ride it while one can.

March, 2011

Produce Expenditures By Ethnic Consumers What Can The Industry Learn From High-Purchasing Ethnic Groups?

It is always interesting to see that households made up of members of particular ethnic groups exceed the national averages for fresh produce purchases. For the industry, however, the interest encompasses broader questions: Will these groups continue to out-purchase the average American as time goes on? Can other consumers be brought up to these higher levels of purchase? The answer to these questions depends crucially on why purchases are so high among these four ethnic groups compared to the national average.

February, 2011

Fresh-Cut Produce In The U.S.A. — Razor-Sharp Industry Focus Needed To Move Forward

How consumers handle a recession - and the impact of those decisions on consumer purchasing - is a perfect example of why many assumptions regarding consumer behavior are so often wrong. It seems like a no-brainer, for example, to think that consumers, pressed for cash, would cut down on the purchase of convenience items and more expensive foods. Yet, as Beth Padera points out, that is not always the case.

January, 2011

Can Local Foods Become Mainstream? — What Local Advocates Won't Want To See

Discussions about local sometimes carry a striking resemblance to the child�s tale of The Emperor Who Had No Clothes. It is notable that the strongest case Professor Miguel G�mez makes is that local has �captured the attention� of everyone. Translation: It is hot and trendy, but there is no research indicating sales of local are actually any higher. This is significant, because it is not clear that the research Professor G�mez and his associates conducted is particularly relevant to the kind of �local� that local advocates are actually advocating.

December, 2010

Regaining Consumers' Hearts And Minds Why The Disconnect In Price Perception Versus Reality?

Since we know, thanks to PMA research, that produce is quite affordable, why would consumers say otherwise? Consumers know they should eat more produce, but dont, so they blame other factors, like affordability. The point is that the industry is likely to benefit more from understanding the reality that consumers perceive they are living in than simply trying to persuade consumers that they are wrong.

November, 2010

Success of the Fruits & Veggies, More Matters Initiative — One Point Of Light

PBH has taken a two-track approach to increase consumption. First, it acts to educate and inform so people will know what they ought to do; and, second, it acts to influence the industry and its menu-planning and merchandising so that it is easier for consumers to do the right thing. All of its activities are noble, but any rational analyst of these types of programs will always ask: Do they work?

October, 2010

Fast-Casual Gains Dollars And Units By Focusing On Healthful Consumer Choices Can The Produce Industry Rely On Fast Casual To Boost Consumption?

Although consumers report and Technomic confirms that they value fresh produce, we hear a different story from operators. Mainstream restaurateurs who track consumer comments and purchasing say that scarcely any of those comments refer to side dishes. It is the quality and quantity of the protein component of the meal that attracts lots of compliments, criticism and purchasing. This leads to the two-spears-of-asparagus and-a-cherry-tomato phenomenon.

September, 2010

Consumers Interested In Dining Out And Eating Healthfully Don't Bet The Farm On Rapid Shifts In Dining Behavior

Watching the ebbs and flows of consumer opinion is intriguing. The question for those who make a living in the food industry is what significance to place on these reports? Not too much we would say. If consumer sentiment can shift dramatically and become more positive in six months, it can suddenly become negative just as easily. Perhaps the useful lesson we can draw from such rapid shifts is one would be foolish to place much stock in such ephemeral reports.

August, 2010

Private Label: The Brands of the Future No Free Ride For Private Labels

The future for private label is almost universally seen as bright. Yet the intrinsic logic of the interaction between private label and national brands makes the future for private label somewhat problematic, and the peculiarities of fresh produce marketing make private label produce unlikely to triumph.

July, 2010

Local Finds A Following Locally Grown Is A Political Concept

Wal-Mart defines locally grown as grown within the state of the store where the product is being sold. Whole Foods defines it as within 700 miles of its distribution center. Weve seen dozens of studies over the last quarter century and, pretty much, they have all come down the same way: There is loyalty to product grown in the state where people live and very little loyalty for the state next door.

June, 2010

Fresh Produce And Variety Can Drive Store Traffic And Build Loyalty Put Consumers First

It is good news, and an important asset for the industry, that consumers value produce so highly that the vast majority identify liking a stores produce as one of the reasons they select to consistently shop at a particular store. The positive response to this question raises, as good research often does, another question: What does it mean for a consumer to like the produce at a particular store?

May, 2010

Healthy Eating In America: A Work In Progress Survey Limitations

It is well known that one problem with research is getting accurate numbers numbers that represent real behavior rather than numbers that reflect what consumers think best to say. Yet perhaps even more challenging is drawing the right policy implications from a given set of facts.

April, 2010

Fresh, Healthy And Home Cooked: Reimagining The Ideal Meal Is Produce Up To The Home Cooking Challenge?

Understanding how consumers who eat out frequently at casual dining restaurants perceive eating at home may open a path for retailers to build business from these consumers. In fact, the Olson Communications research points to a more optimistic scenario for retailers than the commonly understood trading down phenomenon. It turns out, people like eating at home, and for reasons likely to continue even if the recession abates.

March, 2010

Consumers Rate Packaging Voting With Dollars

It is sometimes said that the difference between politics and economics is that in politics, we learn what people want; in economics, we learn what people want most. So it is easy to get consumers to vote in a focus group or survey for, say, resealable bags or sturdy clamshells whether they will actually vote with their dollars for these products is a significantly different question.

February, 2010

Brand Performance And Produce Branding Incorporates Many Traits

Branding, in and of itself, may be a tool that builds confidence in attributes of fresh produce that are difficult or impossible for consumers to ascertain for themselves. In other words, a consumer may not be able to tell that an item is grown to high food safety standards, but the consumer may feel that a branded producer has a lot to lose, and so, takes better care.

January, 2010

Change For The Better Research Perspectives Will Go On

This column was founded when PMA undertook a new consumer research program and it represented something rare and precious and wholly commendable on the part of PMA: A willingness to subject ones work to withering scrutiny.

December, 2009

Coloring Between Holiday Tradition And Everyday Up Hill Battle

There are certainly concepts, say Dardens Seasons 52, where produce is crucial. For the most part, though, produce is caught in the middle. The protein is what causes the sale and what the consumer evaluates. Produce is often an accent, adding color and texture. The key to increasing produce consumption at foodservice is to change the nature of the entre so that produce is the main event and the protein becomes the accent.

November, 2009

Celebrating 60 Years! Combustion Of Commerce

It is worth noting on the occasion of the 60th annual Produce Marketing Association Convention and Exposition or, as the marketing folks dubbed it some years ago, Fresh Summit, that there is nothing remotely like this event in the world. If we could somehow place ourselves back at that first humble meeting of the Produce Prepackaging Association in New York City, we could imagine how improbable this months assemblage in Anaheim would seem.

October, 2009

Recessionary Reactions Cutting Through Consumer Biases

Consumer research is filled with insights into consumer behavior, yet attempts to deduce how a business ought to behave from what consumers report must be carefully considered. It is not surprising that quality, cleanliness and price guide consumer decisions. Add in a reference to assortment and location, and you get the five elements that win every consumer survey on selection of shopping venues ever conducted. The real question is what to make of these declarations.

September, 2009

Keeping Produce Safer No Absolutes In Food Safety

Whether the issue is governmental regulation or buyer procurement specifications, one point on which the industry is agreed upon is that requirements motivated by a desire to enhance food safety should be science-based. This quest for science-based standards has an Achilles heel however: We simply dont know much about an awful lot related to food safety.

August, 2009

Traceability Is Fundamental Will Buyers Ante Up For PTI?

There is little question that the Produce Traceability Initiative lays out a path of progress for the produce industry. Not only does it present a model for traceability in food safety, but the realization of an industry-wide standard will create exceptional efficiencies for trade and provide consumers with better product less expensively. At the same time, it is easy to see why so many are objecting. Though objections are ostensibly about the cost, that is not the whole story.

July, 2009

All Aboard The Sustainability Train Search For Sustainability ROI Elusive

It is satisfying to read about PMAs new servers and the energy they save. Yet another operation, perhaps without cash or credit to buy new servers, may stick with the old energy hogs because, until something changes, that is its way to stay in business or, put another way, to sustain its business. Passing judgments about others is a tricky wicket when it comes to sustainability, because the exact same action, taken by two different players, can have different results.

June, 2009

Making Waves In Foodservice Issues To Digest

It is exciting news that PMA will be partnering with the National Restaurant Association and the International Foodservice Distributors Association to seek ways to support healthy living through the use of more produce. More research, and kicking off an Executive Invitational Think Tank at the PMA Foodservice Conference can only help this cause. Until the results are in, though, let this columnist take a stab at identifying five of the issues we need to work on.

May, 2009

Helping Industry Members Help Themselves Confidence-Building Information

It is terrific that PMA has funded a study to ascertain the size and scope of the produce industry. Although one can imagine all kinds of uses for this data, such as persuading the government to invest in updating a half-century-old water infrastructure, this study is really an investment by PMA in arming the trades public policy advocates with additional data. When it comes to individual companies, it is more important to pay attention to the micro than the macro.

April, 2009

Economic Challenges And Opportunities Engage The Opportunities

That consumers report produce consumption remaining steady is not particularly surprising. People change eating habits slowly, if at all, and produce is not the kind of big-expense, high profile item such as, say, lobster that consumers are likely to focus on giving up for economic reasons. Despite the trades always-present interest in consumption, however, asking about consumption may be the wrong question for the industry in recessionary times.

March, 2009

Opportunity For Produce In Food Cost Hikes Will Consumers Revalue Produce?

Some people spend such a small portion of income on fresh produce that their consumption is unlikely to be affected by the economy. It is also quite true that fresh produce is cheaper than most proteins so, certainly, some people will trade down to fresh produce and save money. The problem is not that any of this is wrong; it is just incomplete. Although some will trade down to fresh produce from protein, others will trade down from fresh produce to starches, and we have no real data to judge the interplay of these forces.

February, 2009

A Tale of Two Stories: The Produce Industry And Its Members Be Careful What You Wish For

The industry is looking forward to the new PMA-sponsored research which attempts to quantify the scope of the industry. The results will be scrutinized carefully because The devil is in the details, particularly in terms of the implications of the research for public policy. Bryan is quite correct in his explanation that this new economic impact data will be used to buttress the claims made by the industry in pursuit of public policy favorable to the industry. We would be wise, however, to be careful what we wish for.

January, 2009

A Commitment To Your Future Attracting Talent Beyond The Abstract

Yes, the Pack/PMA Career Pathways Fund is a fantastic program and the industry is eternally in the debt of Jay and Ruthie Pack for initiating and funding the program and to PMA for organizing and sustaining it. That many a student who might have wound up in another industry winds up in produce after visiting the PMA convention is simply beyond any reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, the over-50 percent number Bryan mentions is probably less meaningful than we might hope.

December, 2008

Connecting These Dots Is No Game Food Safety Requires Mature Thinking

When Bryan explains the industry must do an even better job to defend public health and safeguard our products, this can only mean we must be prepared to put safety ahead of other interests. Although we have heard hundreds of regulators and legislators at state and national levels speak to food-safety issues related to produce, we cannot recall even one who urged consumers to prepare for higher prices that will be necessary to justify the investment in food safety.

November, 2008

Making Sense Of Sustainability Economy May Affect Behavior

At the 2007 PMA convention this author presented a workshop unveiling important consumer research related to sustainability. Since then we have learned a lot about how consumers react to sustainability initiatives and how businesses can deal with sustainability under different circumstances. As Bryan says, when it comes to consumers, the PMA research is different than a consumer behavior study; it is intriguing but offers the opportunity for more questions rather than giving definitive guides to behavior.

October, 2008

Market Disruption: Challenge Or Opportunity? Look Beyond The Industry

We have seen no indications in consumer surveys that indicate consumers will be reducing consumption of food except in the most extreme of economic situations. If consumers are going to eat just as much as ever, then they are unlikely to significantly reduce fresh produce consumption unless fresh produce prices rise disproportionately. Right now that is not happening, and the reasons it could happen are mostly public policy questions.

September, 2008

Citizenship, Courage And Character The Strenuous Life

Obviously, pathogens should be minimized or eliminated. If FDA knows of a specific producer who is pouring pathogen-laced produce into the system, it should stop that producer. But the issue is whether FDA ought to bankrupt thousands by banning crops in the hope of obtaining infinitesimal benefits when FDA does not know the specific source of an outbreak. We have to ask if our food-safety shortcomings are a result of failures in food safety or failures in honest communication.

August, 2008

Pondering Produce Marketing Five Challenges To Marketing

Mighty brands such as Sunkist live today on the reputational capital they built through advertising in the early 20th century. So when children today think Sunkist when they think oranges, it is the influence of their great-grandma reading The Ladies Home Journal in 1922 that is reverberating through the generations. Such is the immense power of advertising. Yet despite the immense power of consumer advertising, it is a tool inappropriate for most producers.

July, 2008

Something About Mary The Rest Of The Story

Making rules is easy. What is difficult is having the policies in place to make sure the rules really are implemented. Equally, making rules requiring employees to practice food safety is easy; developing the policies and procedures to make it happen is a challenge.

June, 2008

Mumbai Magic Country Of Contradictions

A produce sector functioning on world-class standards as in the export of GlobalGAP-certified India grapes to Europe in the example Bryan gives is a sign of both modernization and economic integration with the West as trade and commerce weave a web that serves to tie India closer to the West and the West closer to India. A closeness we both may come to cherish if political theorist Samuel P. Huntington's thesis should come to pass.

May, 2008

Finding Our Way To Innovation A Blessing And A Curse

Surveys and focus groups, mall intercepts and other research techniques are unlikely to be the source of paradigm-shifting advances, just as they were not the source of Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and warehouse clubs, each of which sprung from the minds of brilliant entrepreneurs John Mackey, Sam Walton and Sol Price. Yet market research is all most of us have, and it must be interpreted carefully.

April, 2008

Confidence Rising, Caution Necessary Dont Ignore Low-Consumption Users

During every food-safety issue on fresh-cuts, someone in the industry pulls out statistics pointing out that the risks of flying on an airplane or driving a car are higher than the risk of consuming fresh produce. These pronouncements do little to lessen a crisis, and this PMA research provides a plausible explanation as to why. People need airplanes and automobiles, so, psychologically, they discount the risks. In food, however, there is no need to eat any particular item, so consumers are free to indulge their concerns.

March, 2008

The Zen Of Dining Out Healthfully What Does 'Fresh' Mean?

We wonder about the significance of the word fresh when Bryan writes: Our diners put a premium on the presence of fresh produce on the menu when deciding where to dine 58 percent say this is important to their restaurant selection. It's impossible to know without further research. One of the dangers of having a goal in research such as learning consumer attitudes toward fresh is we sometimes use words without really knowing what the consumer means in answering our questions.

February, 2008

Marketplace Perception Vs. Reality (Part 2): Organics Perceptions Can Be Changed

It is hard to overstate the importance of organic produce sales to the overall industry. Yet it is also an area of great complexity when it comes to marketing. Pursuing the motivated organic consumer may require a larger commitment than many retailers are able or willing to make and, in fact, it may require a commitment that goes beyond the boundary of the produce or perishable departments.

January, 2008

Marketplace Perception Vs. Reality (Part 1): Food Safety Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Retailers and producers make a mistake if they dismiss self-reported consumer concerns discordant with past behavior. Sometimes consumer expressions can signal a shift from past concerns that will be reflected in future behavior. Sometimes self-reported consumer sentiments can reveal a marketing opportunity just waiting for someone to seize.

December, 2007

Consumers Consider COOL A Hot Topic Behavior May Reveal Otherwise

The PMA study finds a majority fully 51 percent assigns the highest importance to where their produce comes from, yet only 20 percent of consumers actually claim to know the origin of their produce all the time. So whatever highest importance might mean, it doesnt mean these consumers wont buy produce if the information isnt available. This, of course, raises the question of whether this information really means anything at all to most consumers.

November, 2007

Sharing The Value Chain Just Being Nice?

When consumers tell us things that are hard to believe, the role of the researcher is to ask simply this: I wonder why the consumer is telling us such a thing? So when Bryan explains the PMA research shows the social responsibility of companies growing and selling produce is highly important to consumers when making produce purchase decisions, we have to wonder what this could possibly mean.

October, 2007

The Power Of Suggestion Think Double-Duty

What induces a consumer to try a new product? The notion of getting a trusted source to recommend product also offers many opportunities for marketers at all levels and overlaps with sampling.

September, 2007

Flower Power, By George! A Store's Secret Weapon

Floral can be tough to manage, especially if a store is trying to offer a full-service shop. How is a chain with a few thousand stores going to consistently have floral designers with pizzazz? How many produce managers have pizzazz? Here we offer some tips on boosting floral sales in mass-market stores.

August, 2007

Closing The Satisfaction Gap No Standards For Taste

We can accept that taste is somewhat to extremely important to 92+ percent of consumers and a factor in selecting a store even that consumers would pay more for good taste. But then we realize this is an unactionable abstraction. How are consumers to ascertain which product tastes better? How are they to know which retailer sells better-tasting produce? On what basis could they decide to pay more for product A and not product B?

July, 2007

Reach Out And Touch Someone Solutions Go Beyond Staffing

The mistake all too often made in the industry is to think that the only solution is more staff, and since they rarely get the budget for that, the retailers do nothing. For 19 years, Produce Business has produced an annual special report entitled The Mystery Shopper Report, and 19 years of experience studying these reports teaches us staffing has severe limitations as an answer to this problem.

June, 2007

Moving The Public Opinion Mountain Tools At Our Disposal

Our biggest tool is the point in which we interact with consumers. Consumer research tells the industry many things about what consumers think, but it is a common mistake to believe the industry somehow operates separately from consumer perception. If consumers look at the produce displays in their stores and see a fraction of the spinach items they remember once seeing, they are likely to doubt that all is back to normal and thus harbor doubts about the safety of certain items.

May, 2007

Filling Up Our Glasses Effectiveness Needs Testing

To assist mothers in feeding their families better, to assist children, as Bryan says, in understanding the sheer fun and joyfulness of eating fresh fruits and vegetables Well, who could be opposed? Nobody and that just may be a problem. The goal increasing produce consumption is so universally shared and the general means focusing on young children still forming their eating habits so universally lauded that it is hard for anyone to raise his or her hand and ask if this concept has actually been tested.

April, 2007

Into The Mouths Of Babes Parental Cry For Help

What could 70% of respondents mean when they say they didnt have time to get all the produce items in during the day? The obvious answer is that produce items are more convenient than ever before but items that require refrigeration arent as easy to keep in Moms purse or store in the mini-van for a quick after-school snack. The less obvious answer may be more important; it is saying children do not want to eat the produce item, and therefore it would require great parental involvement.

March, 2007

Packaging Promotes Brand Loyalty Consumers Look Beneath The Wrap

Branding in the produce industry is a peculiar issue with a peculiar dynamic. Decades of studies on this issue have consistently borne out the obvious: Consumers do not value individual produce brands to the extent they will stop shopping at a store that does not carry their favorite brand, and not one retailer in America feels the need to have side-by-side displays of different brands of fruit. Why is this?

February, 2007

New Year's Food For Thought It's Just An Appetizer

To hear that: produce is also taking on a greater share of the plate and is sometimes moving increasingly to the center of the plate" sounds like fantastic news, but what is it telling us? My guess: It is an idealized version of what people believe they should be doing not what people do but what the culture is telling people they ought to do.

January, 2007

Spinach-Crisis Tipping Point Eternal Vigilance Required

The threat to the produce industry, which Bryan Silbermann correctly identifies, is persistent, prominent publicity about produce being implicated in the spread of foodborne illness could cause the industry to reach a tipping point in which consumer perception of our products moves from the current sense that these are healthful and good to eat to a more ominous perception, that these are dangerous and must be consumed with caution.

December, 2006

Meet The Flexitarians Retail Weakness

A family member of mine lived at the Pritikin Institute for a few months. She came out a virtual vegetarian. Unfortunately, she was off the wagon in a few months. When I asked her why, she explained she felt as if she had to spend half her life shopping at Whole Foods and the other half cooking. We need the fruit relishes and salsas that make mouths water; we need the oils, marinades and sauces he found that made the produce so delectable; we need all this and more sold pre-made at retail in the produce department.

November, 2006

Making Produce Cargo Of Choice Financial Incentives Needed

Pay more, and truckers who dont like to haul produce will find it worth their while to do so. In fact, more people will become truckers. Guarantee business and you can have truckers hanging around outside your door waiting for orders. So, in a sense, the issue was never How can the produce industry attract more truckers to haul produce? The issue was always How can the produce trade make hauling produce more attractive without paying more for the trucks?

October, 2006

No Borders For Training Harder Than It Sounds

Alas, for training to make the contribution it can to the success of an organization, not only must the investment be large but it must also be continuous. Otherwise, the benefits of training dissipate quickly as an organization starts filling up with new people who are unfamiliar with the program.

September, 2006

Culinary Cues For Retail Poor Taste No Accident

As with motherhood and charity, few are prepared to say a word against taste. Certainly there is unanimous agreement that produce items should taste wonderful. Obtaining this, in some cases, may require complicated varietal research and a changeover of crops. In other cases, it may require the development of new taste-based specs for retail procurement.

August, 2006

Doing What Tastes Right Still A Side Dish

PMA research has indicated 43 percent of consumers consider the presence of fruits and vegetables to be a key factor when choosing a restaurant. Yet restaurant executives tell us over and over again that the consumer is very focused on protein. All those little comment cards come back and very, very, very few are even talking about the fruits and vegetables on the menu. We may think we are big shots but to many consumers were just a side dish.

July, 2006

Dateline Wake-Up Call One Bullet Dodged

We got lucky. The Dateline program did not cause shoppers to boycott fresh-cuts, sending produce sales plummeting. But it could easily have worked out differently. And, the last chapter hasnt been written yet, so the seeds planted in the public consciousness with that Dateline broadcast might yet bear fruit. The PMA research gives some tantalizing hint of this.

June, 2006

Produce In C-Stores Hard Nut To Crack

The issue for the produce industry is how to appeal to the traditional c-store demographic and how to distribute produce in small quantities efficiently while making sure the quality of what is on display is always good. The British and their new Tesco Express format are welcome, but getting produce into c-stores is our problem to solve.

May, 2006

Looking Beyond The Wall Let The Research Begin

As China grows in economic might, we cannot be indifferent to the uses to which that wealth might be put. Bryans visit is actually the beginning of all good research. It is the kind of informal thought process that is designed to raise questions. The globalization of the produce trade practically compels more research because, at its core, research is simply a way of learning about things we dont know. And the bigger the subject, the more we dont know.

April, 2006

Industry's Future In Today's Classrooms On The Right Track

Twenty years from now the industry will be seeded with hundreds of young executives who came face-to-face with the produce trade through the efforts of the Pack/PMA Career Pathways Fund. It is really an extraordinary gift to the future of the business. Now, the produce trade is giving a gift to itself in the form of PMAs donation of half a million dollars to jump-start the PMA Education Foundation. Bryan lays out three core goals of the foundation and each is an important challenge.

March, 2006

What Consumers Want More Than Words

One of the true services PMA has provided to the industry in the past several years has been an emphasis on consumer marketing. People are listening, but the folks in Newark, DE, need to keep preaching. Although producers pay a lot of lip service to the consumer, very few are spending the time and money to do real consumer-driven product development.

February, 2006

Data Standards Barriers Standards Opportunities

Industry standards are very useful, reduce costs and expand marketing and procurement opportunities because they are, well, standardized. However, it is rare for any new standard to be widely used, so the benefits of being the first to use it are few. Everyone can benefit from standards, but each company individually benefits, in the short term, by avoiding the expense and trouble of pioneering standards. It is sometimes called the bleeding edge. PMA can serve a useful function as a kind of mediating structure between the various industry interests.

January, 2006

Take-Home Trends Consumer Confusion

The most important claim regarding the produce industry and its future growth is: Consumers say they want more fresh produce options for their meals. This is doubtless correct, but the key word is say. The whole issue of take-out, grab-n-go, home meal replacement and ready-to-eat is clouded by ambiguity in the research. It is not even clear what these words mean to consumers. It is one reason a lot more money needs to be invested in qualitative research to ascertain consumer definitions and perceptions in this area.

December, 2005

Marketing To Children Eat Your Veggies!

Effective marketing, including fun cartoon character tie-ins, is doubtless appealing to children. Produce vendors should be looking at all these things, and the produce industry associations and commodity boards should be encouraging them. But when it comes to health and nutrition and justifying these efforts in terms of reducing childhood obesity, the situation is much more difficult.

November, 2005

Tackling Transportation Challenges Beyond Industry Solutions

In the produce industry, sometimes transportation costs more than the product. Frequently, orders go not to the shipper with the best price or quality - but to the guy who can get it where it needs to be when it needs to be there. Standards set by large buyers indicate it is easier to meet quality requirements than to have product at the distribution center when it needs to be there. What is not as clear is that we really have a transportation problem that is amenable to industry solution. It may well be that we have a new set of realities that require changes in business organization.

October, 2005

What's In A Serving?

The amount of food that constitutes a serving seems to be in the eye of the beholder, and that leads to vast confusion about how much food we should be eating. Forget about the confusion between a serving of pasta that should feed a family of four at an Italian restaurant and the cup that constitutes a serving of pasta from a dietitians perspective. Lets talk about just produce.

September, 2005