The Produce Marketing Association’s annual Fresh Summit recently took place in Orlando. All facets of the produce industry from around the globe were on hand to connect with customers throughout the supply chain and help shape what Americans will find on shelves and in restaurants. It is a rapidly evolving time for the industry. Here are four things I was thinking while walking the show floor.

People are Figuring out Blockchain

This technology is emerging at the right time for the industry. With the Food Safety Modernization Act a reality, and retailers like Walmart requiring faster and more accurate traceability, this distributed database provides unprecedented transparency throughout the supply chain. Beyond just recalls, it can track and record wait times, temperature changes, and other important information as food comes from further away through multiple handlers.

Blockchain is emerging at the right time for the produce industry. With the Food Safety Modernization Act a reality, and retailers requiring more accurate traceability, new databases provide unprecedented transparency throughout the supply chain. Click To Tweet

Is America Ready to Get Ugly

Price Chopper and Hannaford recently announced they were discontinuing Misfit Produce due to inconsistent quality. Wasn’t that the point? Consumers are already used to scrutinizing displays for the ideal piece. Perhaps the retail produce department is not the place to sell imperfect produce. Restaurants are a great destination, as they are preparing it in the back of the house, and the customer only sees it plated at the table. Chefs can cut and cook around imperfections to deliver an equally flavorful meal.  Imperfect Produce delivers their ugly fruits and vegetables, so customers do not have the option of looking over a display. Think of it as a co-op on demand with greater control over what you get.

Consumer Minded Packaging

For a while, packaging was being introduced with the retailer in mind. Bagged grapes reduced loss from loose grapes (as well as slip and fall accidents). Bagged onions allow multiples to be sold together. At Fresh Summit, new packaging was introduced that was more environmentally friendly. Other introductions were geared toward easier snacking, which will hopefully get fresh fruits and vegetables into more channels, including C-Stores. With ‘fresh’ snacking on the rise, fruits and vegetables need to make sure they get their share of the market.

Brands and Exclusives

Branding commodities is a challenge we have helped clients face for decades. What many are moving toward are exclusives within a category. Sumo citrus and Opal apples are prime examples. They are premium and desirable varieties for retailers and consumers. The misshapen new variety, Sumo, stands out among the round orange spheres, and is ideal for snacking. Opal is the first new green apple I can remember to break up the expanding sea of red. The fact it is the first non-GMO, non-browning apple gives it even more appeal.

PMA is always a can’t miss show for the produce industry, and with the dynamic tensions driving change in the food industry it was on top of delivering the latest to attendees. Check out #FreshSummit to see more from the show.

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