Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Survey finds growing consumer acceptance of “green” products/services

A few weeks ago, I shared some findings from a Nielsen survey which found more than half of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products from companies with positive social and environmental impact. More recently, survey by SCA and Harris Poll found that 75 percent of American adults purchased green products or services in 2014, and that 40 percent of adults are willing to pay more for products if ethical and responsible manufacturing practices are guaranteed.

The majority of U.S. consumers who purchase green products/services do so for environmental reasons (54 percent); however, proportionally more adults aged 35+ identified this as their primary motivator (60 percent) than 18-34-year-old adults (38 percent). Meanwhile, Millennials are much more motivated by health benefits (24 percent) versus older adults aged 35-64 (13 percent).

When asked about their opinion of “green” products and services, 41 percent of American adults say that it is really just getting started, whereas only 11 percent believe green is just a fad and will go away at some point.

To learn more about Millennial consumers and the opportunities they represent, check out our Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014 report available on the PMA website. It includes data on Millennials’ lifestyle and values and insight on their perspectives on health and wellness, food and beverages, foodservice, shopping, and technology/communication.

Lastly, do you market your products with a sustainability message? If so, you may want to enter the 2014 PMA Impact Awards: Excellence in Packaging, where sustainability is one of our categories. We’re now accepting entries for this year (with winners to be announced at Fresh Summit in Anaheim this October). The deadline to enter is July 31.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Study finds children’s health a priority for families

According to a new study recently released by the United Soybean Board, U.S. consumers showed increased interest in knowing what is on their plates, and the plates of their children. The 21st Annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition found the top three important health and nutrition issues facing U.S. children are:

  • Instilling healthy eating habits (73 percent, up 10 percent from 2013)
  • Reducing childhood obesity (71 percent, up 12 percent from 2013)
  • Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables (67 percent, up 10 percent from 2013)

As diet becomes an increasingly strong concern, 91 percent of consumers said they consider nutrition important when grocery shopping. Of course, given the study’s sponsor, there was also data about soy and soy products. Seventy-four percent of consumers rated soy products to be “somewhat healthy” or “very healthy.”

In any event, those top three findings mentioned above align nicely with what we’re doing here at PMA in the ‘eat brighter!’ movement. As PMA President Cathy Burns has said in numerous interviews, the intent with ‘eat brighter!’ is to change the conversation around how people think and talk about fresh fruits and vegetables by giving our members and industry a unified movement to rally behind to change that conversation and to cut through the advertising noise.

If you’ve not checked out ‘eat brighter!’ and the various resources available to you, I encourage you to visit the PMA website and contact us with any questions you have about how you can participate.

Thursday, July 10, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Report examines consumer motivations in repeat restaurant visits

According to a recent, free whitepaper from Technomic, restaurant guests’ intent to return and their reasons for doing so vary considerably by generation. Technomic found that more consumers reported they will return in the near future to Papa Murphy’s Pizza and In-N-Out Burger than any other restaurant tracked; Papa Murphy’s scores are driven by Generation X and Baby Boomers, while more Millennials than members of other generations say they’ll soon return to In-N-Out Burger.

For Millennials, the reason In-N-Out Burger ranks high is the concept’s brand image, particularly as this demographic believes more strongly than other generations the chain supports local community activities, offers new and exciting products, and is innovative. For Gen Xers and Boomers, the motivations for returning differ, as Generation X rates the brand most favorably on cleanliness, convenient location and beverage quality, while Boomers score the chain most highly on service attributes, such as staff friendliness and payment handling.

Our own consumer research on Millennials offers additional insights on their foodservice preferences. Available on the PMA website, Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014 found that Millennials eat out more than any other generation, but they are eating out less today than in 2011. Millennials prefer the familiar comforts found in classic American dishes and the foods of their youth; however, their taste for “anything new and different” remains strong, and has increased 5 percentage points since 2011. Also, Millennials are still the cohort that likes fast food and new kinds of ethnic cuisines best, but it is likely that their definition of fast food is broader than other cohorts (e.g., food trucks).

If you’re interested in learning more about consumer trends and other foodservice innovations, consider joining us for our Foodservice Conference & Expo, July 25-27 in Monterey, California. If you’ve not yet registered, you’ve got one day left to do so – deadline for advance registration is tomorrow, July 11. Please visit the PMA website where you can get complete details on all event activities, sponsorships, and more.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014 by Kathy Means

Produce always a winner in nutrition labeling

I attended the FDA’s public meeting in late June on the proposed nutrition labeling rules, where the main point of contention didn’t affect the produce industry significantly. Many speakers rose to address the proposed requirement for labeling “added sugars” separately from naturally occurring sugars. Those representing foods with added sugars were, generally, opposed. Consumer and health groups were, generally, in favor.

Keynoter Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, the U.S. Surgeon General, said that among the seven priorities in the national prevention strategy is healthful eating. He said: “We have experience with the labels….I want people to be empowered with all the information necessary to make a choice, and ultimately that choice is the right choice.”

Most speakers were in favor of a change that could affect fresh produce: Eliminating the requirement for listing Vitamin A and C levels, and adding a requirement to list Vitamin D and potassium levels. It would be optional still to list Vitamins A and C.

Of course, fresh produce is not subject to mandatory nutrition labeling in the United States. We fall under a voluntary rule (details here), where FDA checks periodically to see whether there is sufficient produce labeling at retail. Should we fall below that level, FDA could impose mandatory labeling on produce.

We encourage members to label fresh produce because we have such a great nutrition story to tell. If you are interested in commenting on the U.S. nutrition labeling proposal, you have until August 1.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014 by Kathy Means

Consumer attitudes toward foods bode well for produce

The International Food Information Council took a look at what U.S. consumers think about food safety and food technology, and offered some insights on the results in a webinar in late June. The topics included some that are of interest to the produce industry, including sustainability and biotechnology.

IFIC staff noted that consumers are farther removed from the sources of their food than ever before, and that food is a personal and emotional topic. They also noted that labeling initiatives around the United States put biotech in the spotlight, and social media and speedy communications spread information more quickly than ever.

You can see more detail on the survey here. These are a few of my takeaways from the webinar:

Confidence in the U.S. food supply, at 67% (19% neutral, 14% not confident) remains about the same as it has for the past six years. Consumers’ top concerns remain disease/contamination (18%) and handling/preparation (18%), but those concerns have declined since 2008.

When asked whether they avoid certain foods, 53% said they did—primarily for health reasons. The types of foods they avoid (in order) were: sugar/carbs, fats/oils/cholesterol, animal products, snack foods/fast foods/soda, salt/sodium, artificial/additives, processed/refined foods, biotech (1%). These attitudes certainly bode well for fresh produce.

Fewer than one in 10 know a lot about sustainability in food production, and more than four in 10 know nothing at all. Yet two-thirds say it is important that foods are produced sustainably. (We have a story to tell here!) However, in general, consumers won’t pay more for sustainable foods.

Consumers believe modern agriculture produces nutritious, safe, high-quality foods that can be sustainable. Just over half believe farms are still primarily family-run.

Overall, U.S. consumers have heard a little about food biotechnology, but only 11% have heard a lot. Compared to prior years, consumers’ impressions of food biotech has changed—favorable 28% (37% in 2012) and 29% unfavorable (20% in 2012).

Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of consumers believe vegetables and fruits are biotech products. When given rationales for using biotechnology (e.g. reducing carcinogens, protecting produce from insect damage which reduces pesticide applications), two-thirds or more of consumers say they are likely to buy them. One-quarter of consumers want additional labeling information, and of those 4% want biotech information (up from 1% and 0% in prior surveys).

Take a look at more information from this study. It has some great information about how the attitudes of Millennials and Moms differ from the overall population. Studies like this continue to show that consumers need and want information. It’s up to us to tell them.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014 by Lee Mannering

NGA and PMA partner for retail-focused ‘eat brighter!’ Webinar

For those grocery store operators who have questions about how they can participate in the Sesame Workshop-PMA ‘eat brighter!’ movement, our friends at the National Grocers Association have kindly given us their next weekly Webinar spot to discuss ‘eat brighter!’ with independent retailers.

Scheduled for July 9 at 2 p.m. Eastern, this Webinar will feature PMA President Cathy Burns and Director of Customer Service/Information Management Donna Bogia as they provide an overview of the movement and how retailers can get involved. Participants will also hear from Ross Foca, president of East Coast Fresh – our first ‘eat brighter!’ adopter with Sesame-branded fruit and vegetable products soon to hit store shelves.

Since ‘eat brighter!’ launched on March 31, here at PMA we’ve been busy with outreach and discussions with suppliers and retailers on opportunities to get engaged with the movement. Each day we receive more applications as industry members have decided to sign up, with new participants being added to our website as they are approved.

As Cathy noted in an April 2014 guest column in Progressive Grocer, ‘eat brighter!’ “…presents a valuable opportunity to market to children in a way that inspires and transforms perceptions of fruits and vegetables. Our goal is to give the produce industry a unified campaign – helping to rise above the advertising noise with a strong voice, and one clear message, meanwhile boosting sales and instilling good values to build customer loyalty.”

To register for this NGA Webinar, visit the NGA web site. To get more details on the ‘eat brighter!’ movement, visit the PMA website.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA comments on proposed rule for intentional adulteration of foods

In comments submitted yesterday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the agency’s proposed Food Safety Modernization Act proposed rule “Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration,” PMA Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny called on FDA to move judiciously to ensure that the FSMA food defense regulatory framework not only enhances food defense at a reasonable cost, but that it can evolve and improve over time.

“While food defense is important, we do not want produce facilities to inadvertently divert attention and resources away from critically important food safety programs,” noted Dr. Gorny. Other key concerns cited by Dr. Gorny in PMA comments included:

  • the definition of “farm,” as it is not risk-based and sets up a system of dual, divergent standards for produce packing houses with similar vulnerabilities; and
  • clarification from FDA on the categorization and classification of fruits and vegetables, particularly as they relate to low-risk activities/food combinations in the proposed rule.

To view our full comments, please visit the PMA website.

Monday, June 30, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Take me out to the… garden?

Over the past several years, more and more professional sports stadiums have refined their menu offerings to reflect evolving consumer tastes and an increased demand for healthful eating options. This past week, it was announced that the San Francisco Giants and Bon Appétit Management Company have partnered to open The Garden at AT&T Park.

In a press statement, it was noted that “the edible garden is the first of its kind in an American sports facility” and that it will “supply fresh-picked greens, vegetables and fruit for Bon Appétit’s ballpark menus and serve as a culinary and nutritional classroom for children in the community.”

Located behind the centerfield wall just under the scoreboard, the 4,320 square-foot garden will provide a variety of sustainably grown fruits, vegetables, greens, and flowers. Blueberries, strawberries, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuces, lemons, watercress, kale and lemongrass will be available for Bon Appétit and guest chefs to pluck fresh for salads and other special dishes for ballpark guests. The produce will also be used in community-focused programs about healthy eating.

The landscape design uses vertical aeroponic towers with traditional raised beds atop the concrete plaza. Each tower can grow up to 44 plants on a tiny footprint and uses up to 95 percent less water than conventional farming by recycling 100 percent of the growing solution.

You can read more about this innovative garden here via the San Francisco Giants website.

If you’re interested in learning more about foodservice innovations, consider joining us for next month’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo, July 25-27 in Monterey, California. Please visit the PMA website where you can get complete details on all event activities, sponsorships, and more.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Poll finds social media not influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions

From time to time here on the blog, we’ll share technology-related items that have an industry or consumer slant (as seen in this recent post on retail tech trends). Yesterday I read about a new Gallup poll that found a majority of Americans said social media have no effect at all on their purchasing decisions. Although many companies run aggressive marketing campaigns on social media, 62 percent in the U.S. say Facebook and Twitter, among other sites, do not have any influence on their decisions to purchase products. However, 30 percent said social media have some influence on these decisions.

Interestingly, the poll found Millennials (whom we profiled Monday in this post and are often a key audience for social media) tended to say that social media marketing is not much of a factor in their decision-making. Among the four major generation groups that Gallup surveyed, Millennials (those born after 1980) were most likely to say that social media have at least some influence on their buying decisions (50 percent). But Millennials were nearly as likely to say social media have no influence at all.

Connecting with friends and family remains the predominant reason why 94 percent of social media users use these platforms. Only 29 percent said they use social media to follow trends and find product reviews and information, while 20 percent said they visit social networking sites to comment on what’s new or write product reviews.

If you’re interested in learning more about consumer trends, consider joining us for next month’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo, July 25-27 in Monterey, California. In addition to consumer trends, we’ll also be looking at a number of topics including social responsibility, food safety technologies, the impact of big data, and more. 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 this Friday, June 27.

Monday, June 23, 2014 by Lee Mannering

New PMA report focuses on Millennial opportunities

A few weeks ago, Kathy Means shared with readers a five-part series of blog posts on the Millennial demographic and explored a number of facets to this emerging sales opportunity for our industry. More recently, PMA’s Research and Development team – via a partnership with The Hartman Group – added to our website a report titled Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014.

In this report, it is noted that Millennials relate less to the idea of dieting to lose weight and are instead looking for convenient opportunities to integrate nutritious ingredients and whole foods into their everyday eating. Their broader, more holistic view of health finds balance between healthy eating and the indulgences that can be emotionally fulfilling. Millennials grew-up with celebrity chefs and cooking shows and do not shy away from the kitchen, making this an important market for the produce industry that has both the healthy, delicious ingredients they seek.

In addition, Millennials are demanding transparency from the companies from which they purchase products. They are passionate about social and environmental issues and are pushing for more transparency on food labels. Fresh produce labeling should be simple, honest and straightforward, providing Millennials with a story about their food.

When it comes to shopping, Millennials have redefined the idea of meal planning. Weekly stock-up trips and large baskets are less the norm with a generation that loves to be inspired and make in-the-moment decisions on what’s for dinner; 18 percent of Millennials buy fresh ingredients on the same day they prepare food.

As for foodservice opportunities, Millennials eat out for pleasure and convenience, but are in search of better everyday options. Operators will want to consider fresher options that deliver on attributes of growing importance to Millennials, including organic, local and sustainable.

For retailers, Millennials value a robust in-store experience, while remaining loyal to more mainstream retailers. Retailers with abundant fresh, prepared, semi-prepared and convenience foods (along with a more intimate experience and a knowledgeable and helpful staff) will appeal to Millennial consumers.

PMA members interested in learning more about this report are invited to log-in to our website for full access.