Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study finds companies using big data to drive business outcomes

Ninety-two percent of executives from companies that are applying big data to their businesses said they are satisfied with the results, according to new research by Accenture. Eighty-nine percent of respondents rated big data as “very important” or “extremely important” to their businesses’ digital transformation, and 82 percent agreed big data provides a significant source of value for their companies.

According to the research, executives said their companies use big data moderately or extensively to identify new sources of revenue (94 percent), retain and acquire customers (90 percent), and develop new products and services (89 percent). This is also where the research indicates many enterprises are seeing big business impacts. Executives noted extensive tangible business outcomes from big data in finding new sources of revenue (56 percent), new product and service development (50 percent), winning and keeping customers (47 percent), and enhancing the customer experience (51 percent).

Asked where they expect big data to have the biggest impact on their organization in the next five years, 63 percent of executives said “customer relationships”, 58 percent mentioned “product development”, and 56 percent said “operations.”

During our Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California, we’re taking a look at big data in a session titled “Putting Predictive Modeling to Work for You,” wherein participants will learn more about predictive modeling/predictive analytics and examine companies that have created models that drive increased sales, quality and efficiency.

If you were planning to join us in Anaheim for Fresh Summit 2014, you can get complete details on the event’s program and registration options by visiting the PMA website.

Thursday, September 11, 2014 by Kathy Means

No expected fee increases for USDA fruit, vegetable services in 2015

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) let us know that it was proposing a unified, annual process for setting fees. The notice, open for comment, was to be published in the Sept. 5 Federal Register, and you can comment on it at www.regulations.gov.

Hidden in the middle of this announcement was a delightful statement from deputy administrator Charles Parrott: “This is a proposal to change how we share information about fees with our stakeholders, and is not a fee increase. In fact, the AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program (F&V) anticipates no fee increases in any of our programs in FY 2015.” Good news for any of you who use those programs (and many of you do!).

On the unified fee setting process, the gist is: It would set a common fee formula for AMS’ voluntary grading, inspection, certification, auditing, and lab services. The fees, which AMS is required to charge, would continue to be based on the service costs. If the proposal is finalized, AMS would publish a list of all fees based on the common formula by June 1 of each year. The notice would specify the fees that would take effect at the start of the fiscal year, crop year, or as required by specific laws.

Currently, each AMS program publishes separate rulemakings to change their fees. This would put all fee changes in one notice each year. According to AMS: “This will increase the transparency of the agency’s fee-setting formulas, enable you (industry) to better plan for the cost of AMS services, and allow you to find information about all AMS fees in one place.”

AMS also noted that aggregating all of its fee rulemaking into a single, annual notice “will streamline the rulemaking process, allowing us to more quickly promulgate fees that accurately reflect actual market conditions.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit session to look at Gen Z; Webinar next week on digital life

During our Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California, the sessions scheduled will focus on a number of topics ranging from food safety to global connections to talent management to consumer trends.

One of those trends’ sessions, titled “How will Generation Z Change the Face of Demand?” will look at how the largest generational group of consumers are changing the face of consumer buying behavior by demonstrating their desire to support environmentally responsible companies. In addition, members of this demographic are considered “mobile mavens” that do not distinguish between online or offline choices. The session will focus on how industry leaders can enhance profitability by adopting strategies to reach this emerging customer base.

If you were planning to join us in Anaheim for Fresh Summit 2014, the last day to receive early registration rates is this Friday, September 12. You can get complete details on how to register by visiting the PMA website.

Speaking of consumers’ needs for near-constant connection to mobile devices, next Tuesday, September 16 we’re offering a Webinar that will focus on key findings from our most recent research report: Digital Food Life. The Webinar will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. You can register today for this Webinar.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014 by Kathy Means

PMA busts food handling myths for food safety educators

Recently PMA Chief Science and Technology Officer Bob Whitaker was featured on a September 4 Webinar that debunked some prevalent myths about safe produce handling. The webinar, put on by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, attracted a variety of health and food safety educators to hear about Produce Mythbusters.

Dr. Bob addressed produce contamination (and how rare it is), and explained the industry’s commitment to food safety. He offered important consumer handling tips:

  • Consumers should not rewash packaged greens that have been washed at the processor because they risk cross-contaminating them in the home.
  • All produce should be rinsed before using, including items that have rinds or peels that consumers don’t eat, because any contamination on the outside can be passed to the inside.
  • After rinsing, it’s important to dry produce with a clean paper or cloth towel to remove potential pathogens and dirt before eating.

The Partnership’s work ensures there are credible, science-tested, consumer-friendly messages to help consumers handle food (including produce) safely. The Partnership develops free tools that PMA members can use their outreach to consumers as well. You can find a variety of tools in the Produce Pro campaign. Also, don’t miss the Consumer Food Safety Education Conference 2014, December 4-5 in the Washington, D.C. area.

PMA is a proud supporter of the Partnership, the conference, and the produce-specific messages.

Thursday, September 04, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study: Global online browsing, buying rates vary; PMA releases report on digital life

According to a new study by Nielsen, consumable products have a strong online browse-to-buy correlation (a one-to-one ratio) among consumers. Thirty percent of respondents stated they browse groceries online, while 27 percent stated they buy.

The study also explored the global intent to browse/intent to buy groceries. Both Asia-Pacific and Latin America had the highest browsing intentions in the next six months (37 percent), followed by the Middle East/Africa at 22 percent, and North America and Europe at 19 percent. When it came to buying intentions in the next six months, Asia-Pacific was more than double other regions (41 percent), with Middle East/Africa at 15 percent, followed by North America and Europe at 14 percent and Latin America at 11 percent.

Nielsen also found the mix of age groups is consistent when looking at the purchase behavior for every category in the study. While overall purchase intention rates are higher and lower in one category or another, the generational mix is roughly the same regardless of the category. This suggests that once an online shopper, always an online shopper. For example, Millennials make up a higher-than average percentage of respondents willing to buy groceries online (56 percent), but Generation X still comprises 26 percent and Baby Boomers make up 9 percent, which is not far from the global averages for these age segments across all categories.

Here at PMA, we recently released a new report (with our partners at The Hartman Group) titled Digital Food Life. In it, 81 percent of smartphone users told us they believe that in the past 10 years technology has genuinely improved how well they eat. In addition, 70 percent of consumers use digital food resources at least weekly. Digital food discovery and sharing is also structuring the digital “shopping prep,” a new way of thinking about menu planning and list-making that encompasses digital discovery, sharing, and cataloguing of food ideas.

To help our members understand the opportunities presented in this new PMA report, we’re holding PMA’s Digital Food Life 2014 Webinar on September 16 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. To register, visit the PMA website.

Thursday, August 28, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study: Growth expected in “good for you” snack category

According to a new study by The NPD Group, U.S. consumers are eating traditional snack foods, particularly snacks with a perceived health benefit, in between and at meals, and this behavior will drive the growth of snack foods eaten at main meals over next five years. Snack foods eaten at main meals will grow approximately 5 percent over the next five years or to 86.4 billion eatings in 2018.

NPD notes that the strongest growth of snack foods eaten at meals will be in the better-for-you categories, like refrigerated yogurt, bars, and fresh fruit, which consumers perceive as more healthful and convenient and are more prone to eating between and at meals. Ready-to-eat sweetened snack foods and desserts, which consumers are less likely to eat at main meals, will be flat in the next five years.

Millennials, ages 24-37, Generation X, ages 38-48, and Generation Z, ages 0-23, are driving much of the growth in better-for-you snack food consumption between and at meals. NPD stated these groups’ positive attitudes about snacking, desire to eat more healthfully, and need for convenience are among the reasons for the growth in this category.

If you want to learn more about the Millennial consumer, visit the PMA website to access Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014, a report on Millennials’ lifestyle, values, and perspectives on health and wellness, food and beverages, foodservice, shopping, and technology/communication. In addition to the report, you can also access a recorded Webinar that featured key findings from our Millennial report.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit sessions to explore food safety, tech, big data

If you missed the food safety workshop held during last month’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, California, you can get caught up on the content presented during this session by visiting the PMA website, which includes video segments of PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker discussing the Food Safety Modernization Act implementation timeline, the implications of big data, and more.

Building on the momentum of the Monterey workshop, PMA is offering a series of food safety-focused sessions during our Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California. Here’s a quick look at what’s available for the science and technology community:

  • Changing the Future of Produce Safety. This session, featuring PMA Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny will highlight recent research findings conducted at the Center for Produce Safety and their business implications. In addition, a panel of produce business experts will address questions from the audience on critical topics in produce food safety, and share with you the newest technical information to help you make informed, actionable business decisions for your company.
  • Putting Predictive Modeling to Work for You. Predictive Modeling/predictive analytics is the type of data mining that forecasts probabilities and trends, and this session will give you clarity about how to use your data by examining companies that have created models that drive increased sales, quality and efficiency.
  • Embracing Disruptive Technology. In this session, Dr. Bob Whitaker and a panel of experts will provide insight into the disruptive technologies that are emerging and provide insights into how these technologies will affect the produce industry and how you can leverage them to transform your business into one that is poised to meet the future demand for food.

To learn more about Fresh Summit 2014, including how to register, visit the PMA website. Please note that early registration rates will apply until September 12.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 by Lee Mannering

PMA comments on Global Food Traceability Center work

As many Field to Fork readers know, PMA has been working on traceability issues in the fresh produce industry for some time – with our leadership in the Produce Traceability Initiative (sponsored by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, GS1 US, United Fresh Produce Association, and PMA) being a foundational piece of those efforts.

Last fall, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), supported by several founding sponsors and industry associations including the Food Marketing Institute, GS1 US, Seafood Industry Research Fund for the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), and PMA launched the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) to “serve as an unbiased, knowledgeable, science-based advisor that advances insight and understanding about food traceability, and focus on addressing the very real issues and challenges of implementing improvements in food traceability while increasing transparency about food.”

In June, PMA Vice President of Supply Chain Efficiencies Ed Treacy (who serves on the GFTC board) participated in a roundtable discussion with executives from the four other GFTC sponsoring organizations and those comments were recently published on the IFT website. In it, they offer perspectives on these three questions about the GFTC:

  • What does the launch of the GFTC mean for the future of food traceability?
  • How much of a role does collaboration with the other founding organizations play in the success of the GFTC?
  • What progress do you hope to see two or three years down the road?

If you’re interested in food traceability issues, you may want to give this piece a read as each participant offers some great insights about why their organization is involved and what they’ve experienced thus far in bringing the GFTC to life.

To learn more about our work on traceability, visit the PMA website.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 by Lee Mannering

USDA launches pilot project for unprocessed produce, conference call on August 21

Last week I learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) have launched a pilot project which will provide participating U.S. states the ability to utilize USDA Foods entitlement dollars in their competitive procurement of unprocessed fruit and vegetable products.

As part of this pilot project, AMS will establish and maintain a list of eligible vendors from which participating states and schools may procure unprocessed fruit and vegetables (to include fresh-cut products). To be included on the list, interested vendors must submit an application to AMS providing evidence that specific requirements have been met.

If you’d like more information on this pilot project (specifically how to participate as an eligible vendor), visit the AMS Commodity Purchasing website and click on the link for the “Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetables.”

In addition, AMS is hosting a conference call at 1 p.m. Eastern this Thursday, August 21, to discuss the pilot project with interested vendors and provide additional information about the vendor eligibility requirements. No advance registration is required; however, there are a limited number of participants who can join the call.

The call-in number is +1 (888) 844-9904 and the passcode is 1693356. If you have questions, please contact Nate Sudbeck at +1 (202) 720-3052.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit session to explore transparency in fresh produce marketing

A few months ago, I shared with you some findings from a Sullivan Higdon & Sink report which revealed that only 34 percent of Americans feel the agriculture industry is transparent and only 30 percent feel food companies are transparent about food production practices.

In this study, participants we asked to rate which methods would make a food producer more trustworthy. Fifty-six percent said better labeling of key production and nutritional information. This was followed by 50 percent indicating public tours of farms/food production facilities.

In addition, 53 percent of consumers feel that farmers and ranchers are trustworthy sources of food production information because they have a unique perspective and the credibility to impart information.

During our Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California, we’re taking a look at this issue in a session titled “Product Transparency Meets Fresh Produce.” In it, we’ll be highlighting the importance of full disclosure, and the need for farmers to find a truthful and transparent story to tell in how their products are grown and handled throughout production.

To learn more about Fresh Summit 2014, including how to register, visit the PMA website. Please note that early registration rates will apply until September 12.