The Whole Package

"Over half of those surveyed still primarily get their produce information from within the produce department, on signs and packaging."

— Rich Thoma, Yerecic Label Co.

When there's value, consumers won't compare price alone.

Staying connected to consumer trends is the first step toward adding value to fruits and vegetables. If you're paying attention to consumers' desire for convenience and nutritional information, then you should recognize the potential that packaging innovations hold for meeting these needs.

The study Consumer Attitudes toward Packaged Fruits and Vegetables, containing consumer trends research released by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) last fall, shows that packaging enhances marketing opportunities to make fresh produce more convenient, appealing and valuable for people scrambling daily to get healthy meals on the table fast.

Make it Snappy

"Fast" resonates with shoppers on multiple levels. Many consumers enjoy the grab-and-go convenience of packaged produce, according to Rich Thoma, VP of sales and marketing at New Kensington, Pa.-based Yerecic Label Co., which sponsored the PMA packaging research.

"Consumers are more knowledgeable and want more information on nutrition, product origin, product usage, recipes, storage and handling instructions," adds David Lessard, director of produce at Ahold USA Retail in Carlisle, Pa.

Packaging expedites shopping and gives consumers information when and where they want it — right then and there in the produce department where purchasing decisions are made.

"Even in this digital age, over half of those surveyed still primarily get their produce information from within the produce department, on signs and packaging," observes Thoma. "With computers in most homes and the growth of smartphones, I was surprised so many consumers still rely on point of purchase to get their information on something they purchase weekly."

PMA's research also shows that packaging's convenience should follow consumers home. Solutions that fit easily into refrigerators, are resealable and can be cooked in the package keep busy people moving and add to the product's value.

What Price Packaging?

Price stands as consumers' biggest deterrent to purchasing packaged produce. In fact, price is also the industry's biggest deterrent to packaging innovation. To get a premium for packaged produce, the industry needs to show consumers value. From delivering recipes and nutritional insight, to convenience, to easing food safety concerns, there's a wealth of opportunity for packaging to carry the currency needed to increase produce consumption.

Thoma notes that collaboration between retailers and suppliers is becoming more prevalent, "but as long as there's a commodity mindset in the industry, it's difficult to drive packaging innovation, as the supply side is hesitant to invest in innovative packaging unless they believe it will give them an extended competitive advantage."

Lessard stresses: "It is a combined effort and partnership between supplier and retailer to develop common goals on packaging that ultimately satisfy consumer needs. We currently use [PMA consumer trends research] as part of our comprehensive analysis for product development."

Idea Xchange

Right now, forums to exchange ideas across the supply chain and breed packaging innovations are a phone call, a mouse click or a conference away. And packaging is clearly a topic of conversation. PMA Xchange already features several online discussions highlighting the research and its implications. The conversation needs to continue to generate the next concepts, research and consumer value in regard to produce packaging.

Lorna Christie is EVP and COO at the Produce Marketing Association.

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