As one year closes and another begins, it is a good time to take stock of everything that has happened and look forward to plan and predict what the future might hold. It seems like the pace of change in our industry has been accelerating for some time now.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I set aside some time to think about what the produce world will look like 30 years from now. Here are a few predictions.
First, the U.S. per capita consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables will be at a historic record, and produce will be the leading fresh item sold at retail. More people will be eating fresh fruits and vegetables than at any other time in history.
A primary reason for this growth will be due to the increasing concern for wellness. Over a generation of citizens has seen their parents and grandparents suffer from medical issues that in many ways can be tied to diet, and society will continue to prioritize healthy eating.
Another reason for the growth in consumption will be the result of government regulations. The government will continue to increase regulations of meals for any subsidized program that exists, particularly in schools, and will also actively promote healthy eating wherever possible.
The government bears a huge cost for medical issues related to poor diets and will promote preventative maintenance in the form of fruits and vegetables that will reduce the overall cost to keep people alive.
Second, end-to-end traceability will be seen as a marketing and analytics tool rather than an operational/food safety hurdle. The recall benefits that allow for lot-specific, rapid, decisive measures to be taken, rather than the large-scale, panic-inciting measures that are present today, will have long been realized by the industry.
Shippers and processors will have real-time insights into their products through the supply chain as the products are sold. Customer segmenting, demographic information and data analytics will have benefited the supply side of the industry in tremendous ways.
On the demand side of the equation, customers will profit from this technology by knowing more about specific factors that will increase their appetite to buy. Perhaps major retailer “X” will have a specific lot of grapes that will be in store this afternoon with a particularly high brix that will be advertised the day of arrival.
Lastly, by 2050 the industry will no longer use plastic for packaging. This change will come on swiftly as citizens and regulators ramp up the pressure on industry to play a more equitable role in protecting our environment.
The packaging materials that have gotten us to where we are today will not be sufficient to get us where we will be 30 years from now. I believe that the changes brought about in the interests of environmental protection will require some of the most significant adaptations from the world as a whole, and the players in our industry will need to pivot or will become obsolete.
The produce industry is as fast-paced now as it ever has been. Through history it has adapted and progressed, and we can rest assured that it will continue to do so.
But no one can predict the future with certainty. I will be 65 years old in 2050, and I should be around to see what becomes of these predictions — as long as I continue to eat my fruits and veggies.
Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected].