National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Yesterday's opening day of the Midwest Produce Conference & Expo was highlighted by a consumer panel moderated by Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation and Pamela Riemenschneider of Produce Retailer magazine.

The 90-minute session moved fast, with seed questions from Elizabeth and Pamela quickly supplanted by many from the audience.

The panel of about 10 consumers was a mixture of suburban moms, young urban singles and a couple of seasoned citizens.

It was you and me up there, describing why they don't eat more fruits and vegetables but wish they would.

A few quotes:

What competes with fruits and vegetables?

"Ice cream and chocolate"

"Carbs and salty snacks"


"Pasta; meal replacement bars, energy bars."

"Chips and salsa; french fries."

"Chips. But aren't they potatoes?"

The panel talked about local food, organic food, why they shop at different retailers, convenience issues, brand loyalty, country of origin, new products ("You always want to have more choices; you are always looking for better and newer"), QR codes, genetically modified food, know your farmer ("If a see a picture of a farmer in a store, I actually like it and feel connected"), how to gain store loyalty ("make if fun for the kids"), the appeal of farmers markets ("the freshness aspect of the farmers market appeals; at the grocery store, it could have been on the truck for weeks.")

Of course the panel was wrong in some of their individual perceptions but all together right in their collective motivations and sentiments.

One consumer is easy to ignore, but consumers in the plural must be listened to. And we did yesterday.

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