National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

We know this: the next big thing won’t be the last big thing.

 I asked members of the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about the "next big thing" for fresh produce, and already we have seen a number of insightful responses.

What's the next big produce department trend? What new commodity/variety or pack has a chance to take off this year?

More on that question later.

But to consider what is tomorrow’s next big thing, it is revealing to look back and consider the big trends of yesterday and yesteryear.

I have a number of Fresh Trends publications on my library shelf. Fresh Trends is an annual consumer research publication of The Packer and it has been around as long as I can remember; I think 1986 was the first year Fresh Trends was published as an annual research project. At the risk of dating myself, that was just two years after I arrived at Vance.

I was leafing through the 1992 edition of Fresh Trends this morning.

Responding to the question, “What were your reasons for trying a new produce item in the past 12 months?”, consumers surveyed in 1992 could choose “friend recommended,” “household member requested,” “needed for recipe,” or “read/heard about in a magazine or newspaper.”

Alas, the Internet did not emerge for commercial purposes until 1995, and thus food bloggers and websites exerted no influence in 1992. I think email was even a foggy notion at the time.

The majority of consumers surveyed that year had “heard of” bagged baby carrots but only 38% had ever tried them.

Likewise, three out of four consumers had heard of seedless watermelons but only three in ten had ever purchased a seedless watermelon in the year of our Lord, 1992.

Gala apples, now Everyman’s favorite variety, were just beginning to emerge in 1992. Only 21% of consumers had "heard of" gala apples and a paltry one in ten consumers had ever purchased that variety.

Only 34% of consumers in 1992 said they had purchased blueberries in the previous year. In contrast, for the 2012 edition of Fresh Trends, 52% of consumers reported they purchased blueberries in the past 12 months.

 As for avocados, only 25% of consumers in 1992 reported buying avocados in the previous year.

That percentage zoomed to 45% who reported an avocado purchase in the past year for the 2012 Fresh Trends.

 There was nary a mention of the term “local” in 1992. My,  times have changed.

 By the way, here are a few reader responses about “the next big thing” discussion group question for the here and now:

  “Multi-product fruit packs under a standardized brand-assigned multi-product UPC”.

“ Exotic fruit - fresh cut packed in a tray.”

“The availability of Micro Greens. Vertical farming growing will provide the climate to produce superior quality, flavor, and longer shelf life. Providing availability at affordable prices.”

“Organic Asian Vegetables Mix pack”

“More and more customers in the retail markets are looking for "CLUB PACK" savings. Flavor and nutrition continue to be drivers in the market place with price taking a, albeit close, back seat. Newer apple hybrid varieties and heirloom tomatoes continue to grow in popularity while the demand on kales is still growing rapidly. Also, convenience packs and ready-to-prepare items are an expanding category offered in the more innovative markets. “


TK: I welcome readers to second these speculations and/or put forward some of your own. What will be the next blueberry, hass avocado, baby carrot or gala apple? Indeed, what is the next big thing?


The Alliance for Food and Farming has put forward a clever dig at the folks behind the Dirty Dozen.

On their Facebook page, the Alliance for Food and Farming posted a picture of fruits and vegetables purchased for $10, which is the amount that the Environmental Working Group suggests for a donation to receive a hard copy of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 guide. Instead of giving $10 to the EWG, consumers were encouraged to go out and buy $10 worth of fruits and vegetables for their health.

That’s a much better investment.