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State of the Industry preview: pinpointing produce and floral opportunities

By
Cathy Burns

In a year full of unexpected changes in how we do business with each other and with consumers, one of the themes I will discuss during this year’s State of the Industry at Fresh Summit will be where our greatest opportunities as a global community of fresh produce and floral marketers can be found.

For example, we have witnessed an incredible boom in grocery e-commerce growth. Retailers that invested in their e-commerce experience are reaping the benefits of consumers driven by convenience and safety concerns.

Since the pandemic started, new customers have boosted the number of online grocery buyers by 30 percent globally. This presents an opportunity to grow produce and floral sales, particularly in how to increase online floral purchases since flowers can often be an impulse buy in stores.

While snacks and comfort foods saw a spike in sales, fresh fruits and vegetables also benefited from a surge in shoppers preparing for life in quarantine.

Since those initial two weeks in March, fresh produce has continued to enjoy elevated sales week to week.

On the floral side, despite an initial downturn, supermarket sales have bounced back to almost an 8 percent increase over last year.

Foodservice also continues to move forward in recovery, with some operators blurring lines with traditional grocery by selling staple food items and supplies to their customers. Still others, like Door Dash, have created a ghost convenience store that is only available through its app.

Many growers embraced the power of the pivot early in the pandemic and created produce box programs (either on their own or to participate in federal purchasing opportunities), but the end goal was to ensure fresh fruits and vegetables were available to consumers and not left to go to waste.

This industry stepped forward when the world needed it the most, to provide fresh produce that helped boost immunity and floral that helped alleviate stress and provided joy.

Another theme I will explore is the essential nature of what we do every day and the purpose that drives us. This dedication and consistency are ingrained in the essence of our existence.

During the early days of the pandemic, we saw a newfound — and long overdue — appreciation and respect for those involved in the food system, from farmers to truck drivers to store clerks and cashiers.

The products we grow, sell, serve and support remain highly relevant and deeply essential to everyone.

This is supported by numerous studies that illustrate how fresh produce and floral can play a key role in helping consumers enhance their health, be it physical or mental.

For example, the vegetable-rich Mediterranean diet has been found to positively impact depression and anxiety, while a Canadian study found that low intakes of fruits and vegetables can increase diagnoses of anxiety disorders. In the U.S. alone, a quarter of adults are actively managing medical conditions through healthful food choices.

With the heightened desire to improve personal health and wellbeing during this crisis, consumers are actively looking for us.

Our priority must be to help them understand how our products can help optimize their lifestyles, bring flavor and fragrance into their homes, and help them build a better physical and mental tomorrow.

While we do not know exactly what the future holds, of this I am certain: Flavorful fruits and vegetables that delight taste buds and flowers that provide fragrance and happiness to consumers the world over remain highly relevant and an integral part to living a full and vibrant life. 

We have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to positively impact the health of millions of global consumers.

This is at the very core of why I believe we are in this industry and why everything we do ultimately supports the goal of growing a healthier world.

And that will never change.

(Cathy Burns is the CEO of the Produce Marketing Association)

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