Thursday, November 20, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study finds produce department sales reach $56 billion

One of the many reasons I look forward to October (besides Fresh Summit, of course) is the annual release of Progressive Grocer’s Produce Operations Review. I always like to see how the industry is doing at retail and this year’s review provides some great snapshots of how produce departments are performing. (Pro-tip: While at Fresh Summit, you can pick up a free copy of this review from the publication bins as it is part of the October issue of Progressive Grocer.)

The 2014 review found that total produce department sales are $56.2 billion, up from $53.8 billion a year ago. Produce department share of supermarket sales increased slightly to 12.1 percent as opposed to 12 percent in 2013, as did average weekly sales per store: up to $28,852 in 2014 from $27,978 in 2013.

In terms of average department size and sales per square foot, both grew slightly with a produce department currently occupying 2,880 square feet and weekly sales per square foot of $10.02 – up from 2,865 square feet a year ago and weekly sales of $9.77.

The top five produce items that drove department sales were random-weight vegetables (28.5 percent of total, was 28.2 percent last year), random-weight fruit (28.2 percent of total, was 27.8 percent last year), packaged salads (9.6 percent of total, was 9.7 percent), organic produce (7.2 percent of total, was 7.4 percent), and local produce (5.5 percent of total, was 5.3 percent). Floral sales represented 2.1 percent of total produce department sales.

Not surprisingly, a challenge that has accompanied the increased produce sales is produce shrink. Currently produce shrink is estimated at 5.4 percent, up from 5.1 percent a year ago. Seventy-five percent of retailers who responded to the survey indicated their shrink has either stayed the same or increased.

Respondents also shared the produce department areas where they planned to invest in the next one to two years. Energy-efficient lighting and chill cases shared the top spots, followed by signage, mobile merchandisers, and portable bins. Floral displays/bins were also mentioned as investment areas in the near- and long-term.

Though the entire produce operations review isn’t online, you can get a glimpse of it by visiting the Progressive Grocer website.

Monday, November 03, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study explores consumer perceptions of U.S. government influence and food

With midterm elections occurring tomorrow here in the U.S., I thought I’d share some highlights from a recent Sullivan Higdon & Sink Food Insight consumer study titled “Regulation Nation” – which explores consumers’ perceptions of the government’s regulation of the food industry, their support of food regulation, and their attitudes toward government involvement.

Not surprisingly, consumers’ feelings on the amount of government regulation vary by demographics. Organic consumers and Millennials are more likely to think the government has too little regulation of the food industry; organic shoppers are also more likely to support environmentally friendly packaging regulations. Gen-Xers, boomers, and those living in small cities are more likely to think the government has too much influence over the food industry.

The study found skepticism of food manufacturers is fairly strong, with 45 percent of consumers agreeing that food manufacturers cannot be trusted to self-regulate. Only a quarter of consumers think food companies can be trusted. That said, while many consumers don’t trust food companies, they also don’t trust that government involvement is the solution. Only 27 percent said they trust the government to act in their best interest, with Millennials being more likely to trust the government than boomers. The top five regulatory topics with the most consumer support:

  • Requiring nutritional facts on food packaging
  • Including the country of origin on food packaging
  • Adding nutritional information to restaurant menus
  • Requiring a labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) on food packaging
  • Regulating the healthiness of school lunches

SHS found that opinions are mixed on the benefits of government food regulation. Sixty percent of consumers agree that government regulation can help make food products safer, and 50 percent believe it can help food marketing remain honest. However, consumers surveyed also recognized their role in learning more about the food they eat. Seventy-three percent admitted that they need to take the initiative to learn more about their food rather than trusting food manufacturers and government agencies. If you’d like to learn more about this study, visit the SHS website.

In addition, visit the PMA website to access more consumer research insights (including reports and on-demand Webinars on Millennials, Digital Food Life, plus a December 10 Webinar on our brand-new Organic and Natural report) that will help your business grow.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: Upcoming PMA Webinar to focus on FSMA supplemental proposed rules

If you attended Fresh Summit last week in Anaheim, California, you may recall we offered a workshop session on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) supplemental proposals to give industry an opportunity to discuss the supplements with U.S. Food and Drug Deputy Commissioner for U.S. Foods Mike Taylor and Director of Produce Safety Samir Assar.

If you couldn’t join us in Anaheim, you’ll soon have another opportunity to discuss the supplemental proposed rules. On Monday, November 3 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, PMA is hosting a webinar where you’ll hear directly from FDA, be able to ask questions, and learn how you can positively affect change regarding these important FSMA rule proposals to ensure that when these regulations are finalized and implemented, they will best serve public health and food safety needs.

As PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker and Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny have noted: “These proposed FSMA rules will have profound business implications on every aspect of the global produce supply chain. PMA, in consultation with our industry members, will be developing thoughtful, real-world comments and recommendations to the FDA that will advance produce safety in ways that are practical and cost-effective for produce businesses to implement.”

To access additional PMA resources on these supplemental proposed rules, visit the PMA website.

In addition, FDA announced yesterday that it will hold a public meeting on November 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in College Park, Maryland, to solicit oral stakeholder and public comments on the new content of the supplemental proposed rules and inform the public about the rulemaking process (including how to submit comments, data, and other information to the rulemaking dockets). To register for this meeting, visit the FDA website.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 by Kathy Means

When perishables don’t work in your food drive…

I recently chatted with Pat O’Neill, CEO of Amp Your Good, LLC, about his approach to getting perishables included in food drives. As you know, these drives often exclude perishables, like fresh produce, because the food is left out for pickup or dropped off at a central location without cold storage.

Pat’s organization has a different donation approach that allows perishables to be included when food drive organizers work through Amp Your Good’s crowd-feeding platform. Donors don’t put food in a collection bin, they go online and donate to purchase the food (the drive organizer has a finite list, like a wedding registry). About three weeks after the drive is over Amp Your Good buys the food the drive organizers want, and there you have it. It’s easy for food drive organizers and for donors.

The funding source for Amp Your Good is the drive: Donors pay a retail price for their donation, as they would have if they had shopped at the store for a traditional food drive. And Pat’s organization pays wholesale to buy the food. The difference is the funding source. No cost to the food drive organizer, easy online donation for the donor.

This makes it possible to include perishables as the food donations are not sitting in collection bins, rotting. Pat sees a future where most food drives go this way (not unlike ticket sales for concerts moving from camping out all night to get the best tickets to a few at-home clicks to Ticketmaster).

Starting Oct. 24, Amp Your Good is launching its “An Apple a Day” campaign that runs through Dec. 2.

Our industry is big on giving. Just look at the tons (yes, literally tons) of produce that PMA exhibitors donate at the end of Fresh Summit each year. Companies donate food and funds to local and regional charities every week. And some of you handle your own food drives. This is just another way to make those good works happen.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Retail dietitians coming to Fresh Summit

It is hard to believe that we’re just over one week away from the Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California. In addition to the various events and activities going on at the show, PMA is again sponsoring the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s program to educate supermarket dietitians about fresh produce and the resources the industry offers.

This year, there will be 23 dietitians from Ahold, Balls Foods-Hen House Price Chopper, Brookshire Bros., Buy For Less, Coborn’s, Dierbergs, Festival Foods, HAC Retail, HEB, Kroger, Loblaw’s, Mariano’s/Roundys, Marsh, Meijer, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, Northgate Gonzalez Market, PCC Natural Markets, Redner’s, Schnuck’s, Spartan-Nash, and Target.

We’ve talked about the link dietitians play in connecting our industry (and its products) with consumers before here on the blog, and I recently read in Progressive Grocer the findings of its second annual Retail Dietitians study.

It found that 52 percent of responding retailers employ at least one retail dietitian, with some chains employing 20 or more. In addition, more than two-thirds of responding retailers said they consider the dietitians’ primary roles to be communicating with the public and educating consumers on wellness issues.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is that dietitians said they want to take a more active role in purchasing and merchandising decisions at their retailers.

If you’d like to read more, you can access the complete story via the Progressive Grocer website.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by Lee Mannering

‘eat brighter!’ movement gains support across industry

It’s been a while since the last ‘eat brighter!’ update here on Field to Fork and there’s a lot to share with you today. For those unfamiliar with ‘eat brighter!’ that’s the name of the industry movement that was developed by PMA and Sesame Workshop and allows produce industry members to incorporate the Sesame Street character images, royalty-free, into their marketing strategies for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Currently more than 40 retailers representing more than 19,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada support the ‘eat brighter!’ movement. In addition, other updates include:

  • Canada joins the U.S. as an approved region
  • PLU and co-branding guidelines for packaging labels have been added
  • Thematic campaigns have been added to the marketing toolkit, including Autumn, Winter/Holiday and Spring/Grow
  • School foodservice and commodity boards are now approved for participation
  • Spanish and French translations are now available

Companies among the earliest adopters are introducing ‘eat brighter!’ into nearly 50 product lines for retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada. For a full list of suppliers and retailers participating in the movement, visit the ‘eat brighter!’ website. Hit the “See Who’s Joined Us” tab on the upper right site navigation bar.

During our Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California, we’re hosting town hall session to answer questions industry leaders may have about the movement. 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.

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.