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PMA InSight: What’s on my mind for 2020

As we look ahead to 2020, I’d like to explore some of the consumer trends discussed at Fresh Summit 2019 during the State of the Industry Forum, as well as some opportunities revealed in the 2020 PMA Environmental Scan.ejeieii

Technology
It’s predicted that technology will continue to revolutionize the in-store experience for consumers by giving them more opportunities to engage with products. Sixty-five percent of digital consumers are expecting experiences made just for them. In response, 55 percent of retailers plan to leverage AI for personalized service within three years.

Innovations such as augmented reality labels and shelves allow shoppers to learn more about products that meet their dietary requirements, indicate allergies, and more.

Some produce marketers are already leveraging these technologies through AR labels that launch videos and provide grower profiles or they have developed apps that connect consumers’ health issues with foods that can address those concerns.

Health is Wealth
Consumers are proactively reducing time spent online and cutting down on their social engagements in order to reconnect with themselves and rejuvenate their mental wellbeing. I believe produce and floral have opportunity in this space.

Studies have found that eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to increases in self-reported mental well-being and life satisfaction. Around the world, a healthy lifestyle is becoming a social currency that speaks to affluence, intelligence, and concern for people and the planet.

On the floral side, start-ups are capitalizing on improving consumers’ mental states through home delivery of plants by appealing to the stress younger generations feel.

To better understand their buying behaviors, PMA has a suite of consumer studies that give produce and floral marketers insights into the emotional drivers and connections people have with food and flowers.

The more ways we can show that produce and floral can meet their lifestyle needs across more occasions, the stronger our sales and relevance will be.

Sustainability Sought
As business leaders and policymakers grapple with important issues such as climate change and plastics, consumers worldwide are demanding more social responsibility and sustainable practices.

Twenty-eight percent of consumers say farmers should care most about sustainability, while on the other end of the supply chain, 72 percent of consumers expect social responsibility commitments from grocery retailers, while 62 percent expect this from restaurants.

It’s now up to us to deliver on those expectations of responsibility and sustainability throughout the supply chain.

According to focus groups we held with our members and consumers, PMA found that how and where we, as business leaders, talk about sustainability doesn’t necessarily line up with what consumers are interested in.

Consumers are focused on packaging, waste and energy, while growers and suppliers often talk about water and soil health. In fact, the biggest issues that resonate with consumers are zero waste and energy efficiency.

Just because we aren’t always speaking the same language, doesn’t mean we are off the hook to help create a more sustainable food system. PMA will be developing tools to assist our members in recognizing their sustainable business practices and help them tell their stories to trading partners and consumers.

This will help us forge stronger connections with consumers and share the great work we do.

Values Alignment Matters
Dovetailing with the sustainability trend is the reality that consumers are seeking brands that align with their values. Earlier this year, Accenture found nearly two-thirds of global consumers prefer to buy goods and services from companies that stand for a shared purpose.

Sixty-five percent said their purchasing decisions are influenced by the words, values and actions of a company’s leaders; 62 percent said they are attracted to organizations committed to improving the environment.

They are demanding that companies make changes to better the world. As their mindfulness grows, they’re also making adjustments, with 73 percent saying they would change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

According to Fleishman Hillard, 91 percent of consumers say food is an important part of their values and belief systems and 79 percent feel it’s their responsibility to share food information with others.

There’s a marketing sweet spot of growing consumer demand for products they feel are “healthy for me and healthy for the world,” which presents more opportunities for produce and floral.

These are just a few of the trends our industry can connect with as we move into the New Year and beyond.

At the end of the day, as industry leaders we know that the single most important thing a person can do to ensure a vibrant and fulfilling life is to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Our challenge is to ensure the rest of the world not only knows this but does this.

We can grow a healthier world. Together.

Cathy Burns is the chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association

Market Watch

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