Harnessing Connections, Education to Move More Produce


As members of the fresh produce industry, we hunger to boost society’s craving for fresh fruits and vegetables. This can be achieved by taking advantage of powerful education opportunities.

Education leads to awareness of consumer trends and preferences, which grows businesses.  With that awareness, we present strong resources that can help today’s families see that eating fresh produce is not only a healthy choice but also an easy, happy one. 

When I attended Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Connections: Retail event, it was great to see all of the industry members who came, from across the supply chain and around the world, to learn and discuss the retail side of the produce industry. It linked us all to new ideas and trends, and it was a great chance to create new business relationships and see what’s affecting the retail sector today.

Consumer Feedback Feeds Sales

The consumer panel was an excellent resource to have in addition to the industry speakers. There were Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer representatives, and their feedback on personal shopping habits and preferences provided helpful tips on how to reach consumers and achieve our business goals.

Among the many topics discussed during the event were popular flavor trends, consumer collaboration and the desired shopper experience.

For instance, consumers who discover an appealing dish while eating out will want to make it a part of their own recipe book. Their interest in bold, new flavors; flavor enhancements – such as smoked, tangy and hot – and ethnic foods, which are vegetable-intense dishes, will have an impact on what they pull off the shelves when they enter the supermarket.

We also explored the convenience factor, which has a great impact on consumers’ choices. Pre-made meal kits and online shopping, we were told by the panel, are two helpful options for today’s hustle-and-bustle families.

To provide consumers with the beneficial products and services they desire, we need to collaborate with them. While consumer panels are the rare hotbed of insights, social media as a tool to engage with consumers to see when, where and how they shop also provides a direct feed into consumer minds.

Define a Unique Shopping Experience

Just as one individual might long for a refreshing bite of watermelon on a hot summer day while another might crave the sweet, juicy taste of a peach, one shopper might prefer to take biweekly trips to the supermarket, stocking up only on what’s running low in the fridge, while another might take more frequent trips to purchase the most recent fruits and vegetables placed on display.

Consumers have their own preferences and expectations when it comes to shopping for produce. And for the shoppers out there who are accompanied by young children, even a simple invitation from a friendly face like Elmo or Big Bird on a healthy snack, saying "pick me," instead of something from the junk food aisle, can make the shopper experience a bit more satisfying.

The eat brighter! program allows industry members to use "Sesame Street" characters on their fresh fruit and vegetable products, royalty-free, to get children ages 2 to 5 excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables. When the consumer panel participants who have young children spoke about the program, they had only nice things to say. In addition, two eat brighter! participants spoke about their recent experience with the program. We were able to witness the promising opportunities provided by the eat brighter! program through not one, or even two, but three perspectives:  A consumer perspective, a retailer perspective and a supplier perspective.

Connections to Learn, Grow and Succeed

Fresh Connections: Retail introduced us to new ideas, trends and solutions in the retail sector of the produce industry. It was only one of the many education opportunities available to help businesses grow, however. There are still more events to come with Produce Marketing Association’s 2016 Fresh Connections World Tour and PMA’s Fresh Summit Convention & Expo, which connects produce industry members to inspiring education, fresh ideas and new business opportunities. By seizing opportunities to connect to the right people, information, tools and insights, you’re much better positioned to satisfy shoppers’ needs, build consumer demand, grow and prosper.

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