Understand consumers to sell more fruits and vegetables - The Packer

Understand consumers to sell more fruits and vegetables

11/01/2012 01:31:00 PM
Greg Johnson

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Consumers don’t need to be educated as much as understood.

Three consumer trend consultants shared their views in an Oct. 26 Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit workshop, “Turning Consumers into Customers to Increase Consumption.”

Laurie Demeritt, president of The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., said food trends change at a rapid pace, and it’s important to determine their motivations.

For instance, her research found that consumer drivers for local produce are much heavier on freshness, taste, seasonality and price, and less on environment and helping growers.

Karen Halliburton Barber, assistant vice president and senior agricultural analyst for Rabobank, N.A., said research shows that 85% of consumers say they choose a retail store based on local produce assortment.

Some ways retailers can appeal to these consumers are to have farmers markets on their property, giving loans to local growers and promoting items as “picked fresh daily.”

Barber said most retailers have always carried local product, but with the consumer demand rising, they need local suppliers to produce more, so they may need some help.

That also means local suppliers have to prove that they’re as safe as other produce and sustainable because there is a rising backlash against local produce.

Tish VanDyke, general manager of food and nutrition for public relations firm Edelman, said a company survey found half of consumers say the foods they eat make a statement about their values.

Consumers take their purchases seriously, she said.

“Consumers will reward companies that meet their expectations and punish those who don’t,” VanDyke said.

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North East Florida  |  November, 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM

This is the first time I have ever read about a rising backlash against local produce. Usually it is the other way around. Might we have an article explaning this statement? Is it simply that we have a flood of new entrants and the perception is that not enough attention is being paid to food saftey? Please explain this paradigm shift.

Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  November, 01, 2012 at 02:37 PM

Veronica, in the past two summers local cantaloupes have killed consumers and brought a different kind of spotlight to the local trend, and the produce industry is paying attention to it. In fact, I wrote about this dynamic in my recent column: http://www.thepacker.com/opinion/fresh-produce-opinion/Local-suppliers-cant-treat-produce-as-a-hobby-175975871.html

Steve Warshawer    
New Mexico  |  November, 02, 2012 at 09:55 AM

The statement that "local cantelope have killed consumers..." cannot be taken seriously. If Jensen Farm's melons qualify as local, shipped and consumed across 16+ states, then local and global must now mean the same thing. I guess those guatemalan cantelope that Dole brings in during the winter are local, too! Veronica's question deserves an authoritative, market level response. Food borne illness risk reduction is the responsibility of all farmers regardless of scale or method of market access. The goal of implementing and verifying Good Agricultural Practices on all farms in a manner that is scale and risk appropriate, and supports the growth of fresh avegetable and fruit markets for all farmers is not served by glib and casual assertions of any kind, let alone inflamatory ones such as Mr. Johnson's This is serious stuff, lives and livlihoods depend on precise and accurate information. I would love to hear what Hartman or Rabobank or Edelman or other research leaders can learn about consumer perception and expectation of local produce in more accurate and precise detail.

Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  November, 02, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Steve, this story was written based on a 90-minute workshop at Fresh Summit where each of the three speakers presented for about 15 minutes, so there's a limited amount of data. The Packer absolutely will work on expanding what all three speakers touched on in future stories.

Barbee Butts    
Forney, TX  |  November, 02, 2012 at 04:34 PM

Oh, puhlease- Who here actually believes that consumers want to buy rotten, flavorless produce @ a high price just as a 'favor' to growers? (Or to 'help' the environment.) Just because you can trick the consumer into buying strawberries or tomatoes or whatever that taste like dirt; w/ the texture of cardboard doesn't mean that the consumer LIKED it. Signed: A Consumer P.S. I have an idea! Next time one of you growers/shippers gets a chance to travel to another state, go to the grocery store. Go to a grocery that retails your 'stuff'. Look at it as if you were going to feed it to your family. Buy it-and taste test it. Is that what you want your wife/husband to bring home to your kids? You may learn something. Good luck.

Washington state  |  December, 02, 2012 at 04:13 PM

Good suggestion! As a matter of fact I travel often between the NW and CA and am often surprised that CA retailers have better looking, and at times, veriety than my retailers in Washington, where this fruit hails from! And I similarly I have noted that the avacados I purchase in WA retailers are bigger and better looking than what I see in the CA stores, where most of that crop is "local". In otherwords, often the best of the "local" harvest is shipped to other states and if the handling and supply chain conditions are good then that produce may be just as premium as if it were 100-mile "local". I know for myself, and I think a good majority of other consumers also, do want to/prefer support their local community - their neighbor farms/growers - and all the jobs and other busimnesses they support. It's more than just the quality of the produce - it's about being part of and contributing to a healthy and vibrant community. We all want self-sustaining communities - especially if there is a threat of any kind of disaster (earthquakes/hurricanes) that could leave the entire region without access to transport/shipping - we would need our local food supplies to sustain until roads and channels are rebuilt.

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