FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Backed by exhaustive data on the organic segment, Matt Lally challenged produce industry members to capitalize on trends that elevate organic food.
Lally, associate director at consumer market and research firm Nielsen, kicked off the first New England Organic Conference May 1 with a presentation on organic data.
About 37% of consumers followed a specific diet in 2018, up from 35% in 2017 and 29% in 2016, Lally said.
“For produce, we should be riding into the heyday with this era, but unfortunately, we are not seeing that,” he said. “Not to say we are not doing well; it’s just that my challenge is that I think we can do better. Particularly in the organic space, we can be leaders in this growth.”
The conference at Gillette Stadium featured a wide view of Tom Brady’s home turf. The conference was presented by the New England Produce Council and Organic Produce Network.
Lally’s Nielsen data overview opened the event, followed by educational sessions such as organics 101, a retail roundtable, a Hall of Fame tour and keynote lunch speaker Shannon Allen, creator of grown, a 100% USDA organic certified fast food restaurant with five locations and planned franchise growth.
“Think of us as Whole Foods and Starbucks had a baby,” Allen said.
About 220 people registered for the inaugural event, said Laura Sullivan, executive director of the NEPC.
“Having the Organic Produce Network partner with us for the event helped tremendously, getting speakers and bringing people to the East Coast,” Sullivan said.
Just shy of 10% of all U.S. produce sales in retail are organic, said Matt Seeley, cofounder and CEO of the Organic Produce Network, founded 3 years ago. And there’s no sign of it slowing down.
“Nobody’s got it better than we do. It is a truly remarkable industry that we are in,” Seeley said.