Working together to serve industry’s future

09/21/2012 09:30:00 AM
Jan DeLyser

Jan DeLyser, California Avocado CommissionJan DeLyser, California Avocado CommissionAs I approach my term as chairwoman of the Produce Marketing Association Board of Directors when the Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition takes place next month, I am particularly struck by one overwhelming reality of our fresh produce industry.

Today’s consumers are much better informed and empowered, and that shift is driving our industry toward change at a rapid pace.

Consumers’ expanding influence will reshape every aspect of our business in the decade to come.

So how do we make sure we’re ready?

Many factors are fueling this consumer revolution. They include rising affluence in parts of the world, and shifting tastes in others (think fresh and local trends here in the U.S.).

Meanwhile, the rapid growth of the Web, social media and other electronic communications have given consumers a greater voice and many more touch points through which to reach us.

This is creating a powerful new type of consumer, forcing us to evolve from business-to-business marketing to business-to-consumer marketing.

This is an unprecedented time, filled with challenges and opportunities. It demands innovative products emphasizing flavor, safer and more efficient processes, and a more sophisticated approach to communications.

I believe that our success in this new global reality will depend upon how well we do three things, at a minimum:

(1) how we lead during this period of change and manage the impact of the transformation on our business;

(2) how we collaborate and work together; and

(3) how we encourage today’s consumers to increase their consumption.

As chairwoman of PMA’s board of directors, I’m looking forward to focusing on these three priorities over the coming year.

Investing in the future

To cultivate the leadership and management capabilities we need moving forward, our industry must emphasize our human capital.

If you aren’t already tapping into the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent and its programs to attract, develop and retain talent, you should be.

The foundation is known for its Leadership Symposium for senior-level executives and its Career Pathways programs that attract college students to produce careers.

Last year, the foundation added an Emerging Leaders Program for mid-level managers. The second class will graduate at PMA’s upcoming Fresh Summit.

Now I am looking forward to 2013, when the foundation will formalize its women’s programming with its very first conference for industry women.

To meet these ever-increasing demands — from consumers as well as government and other stakeholders, and from the environment — we must be more creative, more innovative and more thoughtful.

By collaborating across our entire global fresh produce community we can overcome challenges, stimulate ideas, and learn and grow together.

To promote greater consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables we must continue to move them to the center of the plate through a coordinated consumer outreach emphasizing taste, convenience and nutrition — while also letting consumers know that the food they are eating is 100% safe.

The most important place to start is among our youngest consumers, building their enthusiasm for fresh fruits and vegetables in as many ways as possible.

And we’re helping industry do just that, with the Sensory Experience contest at PMA’s Foodservice Conference — judged by kids, the “Just4Kids” section of Fresh Summit’s New Products Showcase, and our government relations focus to bring more fresh produce to school children on school menus and other initiatives.

The future of our industry may be changing faster and in more ways than we can fully grasp, but it is still very much in our hands.

Working together, we can build the fresh produce industry of tomorrow, a bigger, stronger, global community that benefits our industry and our consumers alike.

That’s a new reality we are all ready for.

In addition to being incoming chairwoman of PMA, Jan DeLyser is also vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission. She was honored as The Packer’s 2011 Produce Marketer of the Year.

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