People from two fresh produce companies gave me the same quote about their new products at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2013 in New Orleans last month: “Kale is the new bacon.”

Ludicrous as I thought that statement was, I’ve caught myself using variations of the catchphrase in my everyday life since returning home.

Whenever anyone tells me something’s “hot” or “trendy,” I now shoot back a “new kale” or “new bacon” reference.

“Adam Levine’s the Sexiest Man Alive? Yeah, well Adam Levine is the new bacon.”

Or, “Did you hear Kelly Clarkson’s pregnant?”

“Yeah, celebrity baby news is the new kale.”

“Did you read about the latest Obamacare snafu?”

“Of course. Did you know ripping Obamacare publicly is the new Kale With Bacon Superfood Salad Kit?”

Well, that’s a little overboard, but you get my drift.

Point is, show me the latest so-called “hot item” and I’ll show you someone trying to convince you his product or interest is a “trend” by providing a wild comparison to a completely unrelated actual trend.

Kale is the new bacon? Should we really compare a nutritious superfood to something known to contribute to heart disease and obesity?

It’s like calling Obama the new LeBron James because they’re both famous men who play basketball.


True trends not based on buzz

Kale isn’t really the new bacon and Adam Levine isn’t really the new kale. Or the new bacon. Or the Sexiest Man Alive. We in the produce industry know that distinction goes to Spuddy Buddy.

I contend that true trends are not based on buzz but on consumption. Hype something all you want, but it doesn’t really mean anything until large numbers of people buy into it.

And, of course, when customers and consumers buy into something, they make actual trend-setters profitable, which, in turn, causes more of the same to be produced.

It’s along that line that I offer this analysis on new packaging trends for fresh produce.

I’m not providing this info based on any notion of personal biases I may have but on straight facts: I went through new packaging-related products The Packer staff dug up from 89 fresh produce companies at PMA and put them through rigorous keyword analysis.

Some of the most shocking results to me weren’t what popped the most keyword hits — terms such as bag (42 hits), clamshell or tray (29), convenience/snack/value-added/kit/microwaveable (28), organic (26), tomato (23), berries (23), blend (23), and salad (17) — but what didn’t generate gobs of keyword hits.

I mean, to listen to fresh produce marketers as much as I do, I was certain terms like social media/Facebook, children, schools, foodservice, restaurants, avocados, sustainable, environmentally friendly, locally grown, boxes, chop/chopped, extended shelf life would pop up all over the place.

To my amazement, none of those terms tallied more than seven keyword hits from these new products offered by 89 fresh produce companies!


Total disconnect?

New produce packaging isn’t exactly going out of its way to connect with consumers through social media or quick-response codes. Although the industry seems abuzz about “connecting” and getting end-users to “know their farmers,” no marketers at PMA talked up social media on their new packaging, and QR codes were a major part of the story on only a couple of packs.

Talk of sustainability/environmental friendliness of packs is also nearly nonexistent, although everbody seems to claim that’s important to success of fresh produce businesses these days.

And, with all the buzz of tie-ins with the kids’ movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” and added Disney characters for fresh produce packs this year, I thought marketing to children would be huge.

But it isn’t. Or at least not yet, as the terms “kids,” “children,” and “schools” tallied only seven keyword hits — combined. Hopefully Disney’s new Marvel and potential Lucasfilm character offerings will change this in 2014. Sesame Street characters also should expand the industry’s reach to children next year.

I also expected the terms “healthy,” “nutrition,” “restaurants” and “foodservice” to be prevalent among new product packs, but they only garnered a couple of hits each.

Fresh produce marketers can talk all they want about the companies’ commitments to things like marketing to children, sustainability and importance of increased nutritional value of their products over alternatives.

And they can claim kale is the new bacon all they want. But, at the risk of making another bad food reference to ... well, bad food, the proof is in the pudding.

Or at least it should be.