There are many factors affecting consumers' purchasing decisions today, as discussed by three industry experts in the panel “Turning Customers into Consumers to Increase Consumption.” But a common theme throughout the talk was the idea that consumers are ditching processed foods in favor of fresh alternatives, and particularly produce.
“The number one trend we see in terms of what's going on with food culture is the move from packaged and processed foods to more fresh, real, less processed foods,” said Laurie Demeritt, president and CEO of The Hartman Group. “It's not a fad, it's not a niche opportunity. It is a huge platform that we think is going to dramatically change the industry. And happily produce is the epicenter of what's happening.”
Consumers are becoming much more wary about what goes into processed foods, the panelists agreed. “They're worried about things like chemicals, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, salt, etc., that they're seeing in their foods,” said Tish VanDyke, general manager of food and nutrition at Edelman.
Those are key factors driving the local food movement that has been growing continuously over the past five to seven years. While reducing one's carbon footprint may be one motivator, it's probably not the biggest one.
“Basically that is an important issue, and people feel good about that issue, but it's really freshness,” said Karen Halliburton-Barber, assistant vice president and senior agricultural analyst at Rabobank. “People are interested in getting something local that's fresh and ready to go and that's not necessarily gone through the supply chain.”
“You know what they're really worried about? How many days did that item sit on the back of a ship or a truck to get to me?” said Demeritt.
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