Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Kathy Means

Produce promotion in Europe, PMA coming to Rotterdam

We heard good news from our friends at Freshfel, the European Fresh Produce Association. In a mid-April press release, the organization noted that the European Parliament reformed agricultural promotion in ways that will benefit the promotion of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Freshfel’s press release noted: “The new framework will increase EU funding for agriculture promotion programmes from roughly 60 million EUR at present to 200 million EUR in 2020, of which the lion share is expected to remain with the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.

“Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel underlined that ‘the reform will open new opportunity for the sector to get access to increased resources to stimulate the consumption of fresh produce and indicates that the awareness at EU level to get better support for information and communication actions to boost fresh produce consumption’ Freshfel expects that the new promotion policy will come into force in 2015.”

Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen. Greater consumption worldwide will yield global industry success!

Just a quick reminder that PMA will host Fresh Connections: Netherlands on April 29. If you are interested in the European market, consider attending this event to meet industry leaders and make information connections.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Healthful eating remains a strong foodservice trend

Last week I shared with you some results from a study published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management which focused on the local foods trend at restaurants. Following up on this foodservice news, I recently came across some highlights from Technomic’s Menu Monitor database that complements the local trend.

More than half of consumers (59 percent) rated “socially responsible” as an important factor when deciding what restaurant they will visit, followed by; serves meat and poultry raised without hormones or steroids (58 percent), serves free-range poultry and/or grass-fed beef (45 percent) and serves natural and organic menu items (41 percent). More specifically:

  • With regard to “natural,” more than 9 percent of restaurants use “natural” when describing a menu item. Also, “natural” menu incidence posted a yearly growth of 7 percent, with a 20 percent increase on kids’ menus.
  • The number of restaurants offering “sustainable” menu items has grown more than 34 percent since 2011; sustainable menu items are up over 74 percent in that same period.
  • The use of “organic” in menu descriptions has grown 4 percent since 2011, with a 42 percent jump on kids’ menus in that same period. Currently, nearly 18 percent of the top 500 U.S. restaurant chains offer an organic menu item.

During this year’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo, we’ll be looking at a number of topics including social responsibility, food safety technologies, the impact of big data, and emerging consumer trends. The conference is July 25-27 in Monterey, California. If you’re planning to join us, please visit the PMA website where you can get complete details on all event activities, sponsorships, and more. Note that early registration rates apply until June 27.

Monday, April 14, 2014 by Kathy Means

Canadian retail leaders share insights on produce

From taste to safety to efficiency, retail produce expectations and predictions were the focus of a five-person retail panel at the recent CPMA convention. Moderated by retail guru Reggie Griffin, the panel included: Bernadette Hamel of Metro Richelieu, Sam Silvestro of Walmart Canada, Oleen Smethurst of Costco, Mike Venton of Loblaw Companies, and Frank Bondi of Sobey’s.

The panel’s chains represent nearly all the retail buying power in Canada, where the retail landscape is more consolidated than in the United States. I’ll share more of their insights in future blog posts, and to kick it off, these were some of their opening thoughts:

  • Venton: How do we make sure it tastes good? Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot being first to market with products that don’t taste good. We’re making progress, but we have a long way to go.
  • Smethurst: A message to organic growers: Be sure the premium for your products is reasonable. And everyone should be working toward continuous improvement.
  • Hamel: Suppliers can help us fulfill our promise to our customers. Understand our approach and help us deliver. 
  • Bondi: We are the food ambassadors for our customers. We need suppliers to be food ambassadors as well. Help us deliver quick, easy meals – meal solutions.
  • Silvestro: We’re a global company with regional offices. We have different specs in different countries, and we can take the full array of what growers offer. When it comes to direct sourcing, the sky’s the limit.

Stay tuned for more insights from these retailers.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study finds growth in local foods in foodservice likely to increase

According to a study published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, restaurant chefs and food purchasing managers who bought local foods in the past are more likely to continue adding them to menus and store shelves; however, food purchasers also indicated they would not stock local food just because it is local, but it must have a unique selling point.

As for reasons why managers and chefs said they would continue to purchase local foods, certain actions of local food producers rose to the top. For example, a local farmer’s or producer’s response time – the time it took a business to respond to and process an order – was more important than delivery time as a factor when they considered buying local food products.

With regard to product uniqueness, study authors cited the example of a special variety apple used in an apple pie may be more important to the food manager than just a locally grown apple. They also cautioned that using “local” as a descriptor is not enough, as chefs want to provide their customers with a dish that is unique.

The study also found clear labeling is another selling point for restaurant managers who are purchasing foods in grocery stores and markets. The labels should be accurate and easy to read, containing specifications including weight, date and product details. Training staff to handle local foods properly and to communicate the advantages of local foods with customer was also an important factor that could explain the decision to purchase local foods.

During this year’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo, we’ll be looking at a number of topics including social responsibility, food safety technologies, the impact of big data, and emerging consumer trends. The conference is July 25-27 in Monterey, California. If you’re planning to join us, please visit the PMA website where you can get complete details on all event activities, sponsorships, and more. Note that early registration rates apply until June 27.

Monday, April 07, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Dietitians playing important role in in-store services

Last fall, I wrote about a Progressive Grocer survey that highlighted how retail dietitians partner with and promote health to consumers. According to a Food Marketing Institute study I read about last week, supermarkets are hiring an increasing number of registered dietitians, due to 66 percent of American shoppers believing their food choices are an important factor affecting their health.

FMI found that 85 percent of respondents to its Retailer Contributions to Health & Wellness survey stated they have a corporate registered dietitian on staff and 30 percent have in-store RDs. Twenty-five percent indicated they have regional dietitians.

When combined with the findings from Progressive Grocer (which can be accessed here), it’s clear that retailers using registered dietitians to make stronger connections with their customers, serve their community, and promote their health and wellness messages. If you missed it, Kathy shared RD Danielle Quigley’s story here on Field to Fork in January and her work in promoting fruits and vegetables to her shoppers.

Each October, PMA works with the Produce for Better Health Foundation to bring supermarket dietitians to Fresh Summit so they can see the latest healthful products our industry offers. And every year, we get some great insight from these folks. For example, the top three things the RDs want from brands to support their work are: recipes with images (76 percent), coupons (52 percent), social media tweets and posts (47 percent) and in-depth product information with nutritional information (47 percent).

Just some food for thought as our industry looks to increase sales and consumption.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA comments on CGMPs, HARPCs for Food for Animals

Earlier this week, PMA submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule on Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.

In our brief comments, available on the PMA FSMA Resource Center, PMA Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker described that the produce industry has a limited role in the production of animal feed – particularly as it relates to culling produce of insufficient quality from a harvest or process operation the purpose of animal feed.

Under the proposed rule, Dr. Whitaker notes that neither farms nor very small businesses are covered. While the agency proposes three different thresholds for a very small business (ranging from $500,000 to $2,500,000), each threshold is measured on its sales of animal food, and not total sales of the facility.

“We believe this is appropriate and will avoid inadvertently regulating farms or FDA-registered food facilities that may supply culled fruits and vegetables to livestock. It is important to note that while there are likely exceptions, generally culls supplied for animal feed are not a revenue-bearing activity (i.e., often the grower or processor has to pay to have the culls removed from their operations). In addition, the subpart B provisions of the proposed feed rule relating to good manufacturing practices do not apply to the holding or transporting of a raw agricultural commodity, and the rule exempts small or very small businesses that either pack or hold animal food, even when combined with animal food that comes from another farm,” said Dr. Whitaker.

He added that, with other FSMA proposed rules, PMA has maintained that public notice rules dictate that the actual regulatory language should first be made available for public comment. Moreover, the rules should acknowledge that the produce rule, which regulates the growing of fruits and vegetables, satisfies the supply verification requirements. Otherwise, by requiring supplier verification for animal feeds, FDA will negate its own decisions about when and if produce culls need to be regulated as animal feed.

For more details, visit our FSMA Resource Center to learn more about the various provisions of the FSMA and PMA’s interaction with FDA on these proposals.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Sesame initiative rolls out to industry

Back in October, PMA (along with our partners at Sesame Workshop and the Partnership for a Healthier America) announced an agreement where members of the fresh produce industry will receive access to Sesame Street’s licensed characters, free of royalties for two years. After several months spent developing the components of this initiative, it was officially released to PMA members and industry yesterday.

The focus of this initiative is children aged 2 to 5 and their parents and caregivers, who are encouraged to ‘eat brighter!’ when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. The marketing toolkit for ‘eat brighter!’ provides turnkey resources for use of the Sesame Street characters in media placements, in-store signage, and packaging.

Among these resources are thematic promotions for distinct times of the year, such as Back to School, Fall Harvest and more. There are also customizable options for members who’d like materials with a look that fits their marketing strategy. Below is a video we produced that we hope will inspire members and industry to be part of this movement.



If the video embedded above does not display, you can view it here.

To help members understand the opportunities presented by ‘eat brighter!’ we have scheduled a Webinar for April 17 at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Speaking during this Webinar are Sam Kass, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy; Maura Regan, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Global Consumer Products, Sesame Workshop; and Todd Putman, Chair, Sesame Workshop-PMA task force and Chief Marketing Officer, Bolthouse Farms.

This Webinar is being recorded and will be available for on-demand playback for those members unable to participate.

You can get more details on this new initiative, including how to register for the Webinar, by visiting the PMA website.

Monday, March 31, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study explores Millennials and c-stores

According to Convenience Store News’ 2014 Realities of the Aisle consumer research study, Millennials frequent convenience stores more often than other consumers. Almost three-quarters of Millennials shop at a convenience store at least once a week, compared to 68 percent of total respondents. In addition, more Millennials also indicated they shop at c-stores almost every day – 15 percent vs. 11 percent for total respondents.

The primary reason Millennials shop at c-store is to buy beverages, followed by the need to purchase gasoline. Millennials differ from the total base, though, in that that they go to convenience stores to buy snacks and candy/gum much more than overall consumers. More Millennials also go to c-stores to buy prepared/fast food and to pick up health and beauty care items.

The study also noted that Millennials who shop at c-stores frequent grocery stores less often than other c-store shoppers; research showed that 72 percent of these Millennials shop at a grocery store at least once a week, compared to 77 percent of total c-store shoppers.

This finding made me think about what the recent NGA Supermarket Guru consumer study found as it relates to Millennials: Consumers age 24 and younger (59.5 percent) said they’ve downloaded a food or beverage app – the most among all surveyed demographic groups.

Perhaps one way for grocery stores to reconnect with Millennials frequenting c-stores is through enhanced store apps and social media/mobile marketing experiences that tout speed and efficiency to minimize their time in the store? Even though I am not a Millennial, a grocery store or retailer that provides self-checkout services is much more likely to get my business than one that does not.

What do you think of this study? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on PMA Xchange.

Thursday, March 27, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Survey examines consumers’ trust in farming, food production

According to a new Sullivan Higdon & Sink report, 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 addition, 67 percent of consumers think having food production knowledge is important and 65 percent want to know more about where food comes from.

Among the food production topics of greatest concerned highlighted in the Emerging Faith in Food Production report are pesticide and insecticide use, animal antibiotics, animal hormones, and the treatment of animals. Interestingly, concern with animal treatment scored significantly higher than concern with humane treatment and fair labor practices in the agriculture and food manufacturing industries.

(With regard to consumer concerns on pesticide use, this is a key reason PMA supports the Alliance for Food and Farming, which hosts the Safe Fruits and Veggies website. There you can find a variety of tools and information to help you communicate about the safety of our industry and its products.)

In terms of demographics, younger consumers are more likely to perceive the agriculture community and food companies as transparent. Men are much more likely than women to agree that the agriculture community and food companies are transparent. Parents are also more likely to agree.

When asked to rate which methods would make a food producer more trustworthy, 56 percent said better labeling of key production and nutritional information. This was followed by 50 percent indicating public tours of farms/food production facilities.

Also, 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. This is especially important given the 77 percent of Americans who don’t have good knowledge about farming or ranching. SHS recommends that food companies use farmers and ranchers to impart education via appropriate touch points, and as a result, preserve the authenticity of this valuable asset to their brands.

To learn more, you can access the survey for free via the SHS website. What do you think of this study? Share your thoughts in the Increasing Consumption Community on PMA Xchange.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: Proposed reportable food registry amendments, high-risk foods comment period extended

In today’s Federal Register, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was opening an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to solicit comments, data, and information to help implement changes to the Reportable Food Registry. Per the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA may require a responsible party to also submit to the agency “consumer-oriented” information regarding certain reportable foods, including information necessary to enable a consumer to accurately identify whether the consumer is in possession of a reportable food. In addition, FDA must prepare and publish on its website a one-page summary of the consumer-oriented information that can be easily printed by a grocery store for the purposes of consumer notification.

FDA is seeking input on topics including consumer-oriented information submissions, consumer notifications, posting consumer notifications in grocery stores, and grocery stores subject to the new requirements. These comments are due June 9.

Also in the Federal Register, FDA announced it was extending the comment period for designation of high-risk foods for tracing. As discussed previously here on Field to Fork, Per the FSMA, high-risk foods must be based on a number of factors; some of these include:

  • the known safety risks of a particular food, including the history and severity of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to such food, taking into consideration foodborne illness data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • the likelihood that a particular food has a high potential risk for microbiological or chemical contamination or would support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the nature of the food or the processes used to produce such food; and
  • the likelihood that consuming a particular food will result in a foodborne illness due to contamination of the food among others.

Comments are on the designation of high-risk foods notice are now due May 22.

For more details, visit our FSMA Resource Center to learn more about the various provisions of the FSMA and PMA’s interaction with FDA on these proposals.