Our digital library of past issues of The Packer goes back to 1993, and that makes recalling the headlines of Fresh Summit expos in the recent past very accessible.
What was the 2008 Fresh Summit — also in Orlando — all about?
In a guest column, Bryan Silbermann excerpted the 2008 State of the Industry:
PMA 59 and counting: State of the Industry
Bryan Silbermann, PMA
When considering how to frame my remarks about the profound changes affecting our industry, I go back to both hippie songwriter Bob Dylan and “The World is Flat” business author Tom Friedman: the times are indeed changing -- and in an increasingly interconnected way.
All of us, around the world, are being impacted by a series of market disruptions that are unprecedented.
There can be no debating that the tight economy has influenced consumer purchase patterns.
Many consumers said they would migrate away from fresh produce if price increases reached 26-50 cents per pound. Retailers have confirmed that they are seeing lower tonnage volumes combined with higher unit prices.
Consumers who are moving away from fresh because of price are often choosing frozen, lured by the convenience and flavor offered by new steamable packaging and meals in a bag.
The economy was just one example of the profound market disruptions being experienced across the produce supply chain.
Business leaders who have weathered such storms of market disruptions before know that such disruptions, while painful, can also bring opportunity. Nowhere is that better illustrated than the produce industry’s response to the new generation of intellectual eaters best seen in the locally grown movement.
To respond to consumer demand for locally grown, major shippers and processors are moving to regional production, and retailers and foodservice operators are developing long-term partnerships with regional growers.
Greenhouse production has exploded across North America, from Maine to Mexico. I expect to see yet another evolution in our farming models as corporate farming and marketing merges with smaller operations in the Midwest, the Eastand Mexico.
The locally grown movement is just one example of a fundamental societal shift happening around the world. Consumers are looking for the face behind the food, the story behind the sustenance, the narrative behind the necessity.
The effect of that desire to reconnect is not just seen in how our produce is grown. It is also influencing how our products are sold as the move to small is fast becoming a very big force in the retail sector.
The trend to smaller, neighborhood food stores is very much a part of the major retailers’ long-range planning. Retailers are using these stores to draw in their customers and offer choices for meal and shopping occasions -- and there is strong evidence that retail meal options are taking a substantial bite out of foodservice profit margins.
This consumer back-to-the-basics movement is also connected to the larger issue of sustainability, yet another market disruptor. The speed at which this issue has moved forward in the past year is astounding.
PMA is in the process of helping our members gain a clearer understanding of what this complex subject means to our industry.
And like it or not, our world has also been disrupted by the new realities of food safety.
We have made progress, in part by hiring more experts and funding better science through the Center for Produce Safety.
But we must do more. We must evolve past considering food safety as a cost of doing business.
It is our business -- and we must continue to build a food safety culture, not just in our business, but across the supply chain.
We can choose to swim in the realities of a global business model or we can sink like a stone.
I vote for swimming, my friends.
-- Bryan Silbermann is president of the Produce Marketing Association. This is a condensed version of his State of the Industry address, delivered Oct. 24 to kick off the 59th annual Fresh Summit 2008 in Orlando, Fla.
Very much spot-on observations in the State of the Industry, as usual.
I found this editorial by The Packer from Oct. 27, 2008:
Time for industry self-evaluation
With a mounting number of challenges, members of the produce industry should use the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2008 not only as a means for networking and showing off new products and services but also to discuss solutions to universal issues and remind themselves about the importance of the consumer to their bottom lines.
With the U.S. and world economies reacting with greater volatility than ever, fresh produce interests must determine how they can use the economic situation to their best advantage. Perhaps economic challenges will mean some companies will have to dramatically change the ways they operate.
Companies must adjust to the new country-of-origin labeling regulations and the costs going along with the implementation of those.
Then there are food safety and traceability. How can produce companies minimize these costs while maximizing the chances food leaving their warehouses is as close to 100% safe as possible?
What more can be done to avoid the salmonella scare that decimated several produce sectors this summer?
It’s also time produce companies look at sustainability from the standpoint of how it can help cut costs, gain revenue through efficiencies and expansion of customer bases, and position companies for the future of energy.
Above all, this is a time for the fresh produce industry to remind itself about its mission and its means of maintaining profitability -- all business decisions must take consumers into account.
They’re the ones who pay for the products and benefit from the healthfulness of them. They’re also the ones who will ultimately decide which fresh produce businesses will close their doors and which will maintain or increase profitability into 2009 and beyond.
TK: Listen to the consumer! That’s advice that still holds up, ten years later. Other than adjusting to country-of-origin regulations, there is not much in this call for self-evaluation that the industry has completely solved, so much work remains for the 2018 Fresh Summit and, assuredly, 2028.