We received excellent responses to our Packer 125 industry survey, and today I am going to reveal industry thoughts on a forward-looking question from that online poll.

I hope you are enjoying both some of the historical articles we have published from past anniversary issues of The Packer, as well as the new “industry voices” columns we are beginning to publish now.

Here is one question from the Packer 125 survey:

What change would you like to see that would be the most beneficial to the produce industry moving forward?

Here are the collected industry responses from that question, with minimal editing:

  • Indoor farming of better-tasting fruits and vegetables;
  • Increasing efficiency and decreasing cost in organic farming to make organics affordable to all;
  • Finding ways to reduce inventories held by participants in the distribution change to increase the freshness of the products ultimately received by end-users;
  • We need to understand the consumer driver for consumption is flavor (always has been the core purchase driver). If we understand flavor is the differentiation we need to achieve to move beyond commodity-driven business, then we need to make it a stronger priority in our products;
  • Better communication with growers;
  • I’ve been working with, and talking some sustainability with a number of people recently, becoming more and more aware of single-use plastic containers. It has spurred me to try to use mine more often, and I’d like to see the industry work on solutions for more sustainable packaging;
  • First retail has to change their paradigm and sell according to the natural cycles of fresh produce, coupled with value pricing. The days of 200 to 600% profit are gone. The days of produce being second to grocery are over. The supermarket battles will continue but the war will be won in fresh produce.;
  • The PMA has to market produce to consumers instead of the industry. We have a great story but no one us telling it to them;
  • Healthy alternative to fast food;
  • Clean water/conservation/food safety:  I predict these three things come together in a big way and revolutionize the way we all farm and do business;
  • Blockchain;
  • When the retailers start scanning incoming produce at the DC level and the store level so that in case of a food safety event we don’t have to recall entire commodity groups from every store in the U.S.;
  • Retail buyers will be compensated on their true vendor partnerships, so they are win-win, versus currently, retailers say they value flavor, shelf life, quality, etc, but they only negotiate based on the cheapest price, which is not healthy long term for growers;
  • Focus on the positive attributes of consuming fresh foods;
  • Improvement to the entire product recall timeliness and a more reasonable approach to government regulations;
  • Elimination of glysophate usage;
  • Elimination of buying groups ability to require backside money from growers;
  • A greater understanding by the general public of “why” we must have plant breeding programs and or GMOs to protect our food production globally. It's an industry messaging opportunity that is long overdue;
  • Mechanical harvesting - we won’t have the labor to continue to do harvesting the way we do it now;
  • Greater recognition of produce as an integral part of daily life, part of the culture, not just a healthy food;
  • Produce leading the foodie conversations;
  • Humanless produce industry based on self-service close and distant service based on interaction and check out with machines;
  • Development of ag-based blockchain standards such as Trellis;
  • Closer alignment between supermarkets and grower/shippers;
  • Focus on buyer and executive-level training- specifically focus on flavor, available grades, ripening value, shifting more merchandising control to store level, and a strong push for store level training, product knowledge, customer service, and adequate labor to drive sales, maintain high standards and minimize shrink;
  • Leafy greens using safe water:
  • A greater reliance on regional & local sourcing of produce;
  • Consumer education of production, distribution systems, and contribution of produce to healthy diets;
  • Growers not looking to yield of crops and affordable cost of goods for all consumers;
  • Higher margins;
  • Packaging innovations that allow for increased shelf life, protection from consumer handling and a reusable or short zero footprint when no longer needed.

TK: Fascinating answers from the industry relating to buyer-seller relationships, automation and consumer messaging; which answers resonated the most for you? The next blog post will look at industry responses to the question: “What one improvement would make your business easier for the next 25 years?”