The Packer’s 125th-anniversary edition is fast approaching. We have enjoyed posting previous anniversary edition coverage and also have begun to post new content for the Packer 125 issue (see Mike Aiton’s wonderful column here)

In addition, I wanted to review more industry responses from our Packer 125 survey:
Tonight, let’s review responses to question no. 3:

Technologically, what do you see as the biggest driver for change in the industry over the past 25 years?

Here are the results:

  • The use of the fax machine;
  • Expanded food safety and traceability systems;
  • Advancement of technology;
  • Controlled atmosphere packaging;
  • The evolution of the current packing technologies is delivering a consistently better piece of fruit because we are able to detect so much morel
  • Greenhouses by far have raised the bar on quality and increased production;
  • Plastic-Chemicals;
  • Water saving production;
  • Labor costs / AI / IOT;
  • Foodborne illness outbreaks and nutritional value;
  • Plant genetics and food safety improvements;
  • Packaging as a catalyst for convenience (and shelf life);
  • Electronic transactions from shipping point through the front end, automatic replenishment; , 
  • Improved methods of transportation and product handling;
  • Elimination of chemical usage and conversion to IPM;
  • Ability to trace back more quickly when product is recalled;
  • Smartphone technology, connected 24/7 and access to all this data;
  • DNA testing, increased illness reporting that has linked illnesses to outbreaks, changing the perceived and real food safety landscape;
  • Data-enabled decision-making;
  • AI, IoT, distant cooking ready to cook meals, programmable cooking;
  •  New Tech such as AI;
  • Automation of Packinghouses and cold storages;
  • Packaging, specially with things such as clamshell berries, pre-bagged grapes, source-wrapped lettuce, and smaller packages (i.e. 5 lb potatoes v. 10# bags);
  • Computers- internet;
  • Digital scanning and food auditing that allows traceability of product from farm to retailers.

TK: In my view, it is hard to overestimate the importance of packaging/convenience, but I love the old school answer “fax machine.” While held in relatively small regard now, there was a time when the fax machine was top of mind in the industry, and not in a good way. 

Here is a March 1994 story about the concerns about the fax machine, which by that time had become common.

Price outweighs other factors Shippers blame fax machine for declining loyalty to firms.
    By Dan Balaban
    Staff Writer
    A recent survey by Cornell University showed buyers ranked consistent quality, adequate supply and reputation of the shipper as the top three factors in their purchasing decisions.
    From what many Florida shippers are hearing, the top three factors seem to be price, price and price.
    The shippers say that while buyers for retail chain stores and other companies want dependable quality and year-round supply, they are more price-conscious than ever.
    ``All those factors are important as long as price is not a penny higher,’’ said Alan Levy, a 30-year produce man and president of Great American Farms Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla.
    Shippers blame the fax machine and what they see as an increasing lack of loyalty on the part of buyers. Shippers say buyers are gathering as many prices as they can, usually by fax, and then going with the low bidder.
    ``We spend half our day quoting prices to customers,’’ complained Belle Glade broker and shipper George Towell of Fantastic Produce. ``There’s no explanation as to why the price is so, and they automatically go to the cheaper price.’’
    ``The fax machine is the ruination of the business,’’ said Paul DiMare, president of tomato grower-shipper DiMare Inc. ``It’s happened in the past five years. There’s too much information, too many faxes, too much disloyalty to suppliers.’’


big changes