NEW ORLEANS — To people predicting future trends, I always think, “Where’s the accountability?”

Does anyone ever look at what futurists said 20 years ago and count up hits and misses?

If you attended the Southeast Produce Council’s fall conference last year in Virginia and saw futurist Richard Worzell, you could have pointed out what he got right and wrong from his address to Canadian Produce Marketing Association attendees in early 1996 in Vancouver. (Thank The Packer archives for this.)

Worzell was right 20 years ago when he said retailers will learn more about consumers through bar codes and frequent shopper programs. He predicted people will want to know more about where their food comes from, although he attributed that to baby boomers aging rather than the then-infant millennial generation.

He also predicted the rise of “nutraceuticals” where consumers monitor what they eat as a means of medicating themselves and match up food to their genetic code.

We’re not there yet, but Produce Marketing Association CEO Cathy Burns referenced this in her State of the Industry presentation Oct. 19 at Fresh Summit, calling it “body hacking.”

Burns looked to the future with much of her address. She stepped out on a limb with some mild projections about how Generation Z (born 2000-15) will act in the marketplace.

To me, that’s as fanciful as predicting the weather next week in Kansas.

But Burns nailed the analysis of several future trends based on existing trend data.

More demand for riced cauliflower and broccoli? Sure: there were several new products at the expo.

More plant-based diets? Many companies at the expo provided solutions, but I’m not sure we’ll see 47% of our protein from plants by 2020, as she cited.

Food and floral to inspire the senses? Definitely more of that.

She pointed out the popularity of Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos, which claim more than 1 billion page views per month. Its YouTube channel has 4.4 million subscribers.

She said while 99% of food videos are made by professionals, 99% of recipes are made by amateurs. Well, of course, the amateurs are called “consumers.”

Burns said fresh produce has some momentum, and now it must capitalize. But how? That’s always the toughest question.

I like that produce companies increasingly are going for more of an emotional marketing approach. If consumers were rational, we’d all have fruits and vegetables as half our plate, and we know that’s not the case.

Fruits and vegetable as indulgent, fun, easy. If you were one of the 19,500 at Fresh Summit, you no doubt noticed this on the expo floor, and you will notice it in The Packer’s expo coverage.

Greg Johnson is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at gjohnson@farmjournal.com.

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