Consumer research and sales data will take center stage at the Power of Produce education session Feb. 27 at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure.

The presentation of the latest Power of Produce report from the Food Industry Association (formerly Food Marketing Institute) — plus a retail panel to give perspective to the numbers — always draws a crowd.

Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of 210 Analytics, presents key findings, and Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for FMI, moderates the panel discussion. Participating retailers this year include Chris Dove, vice president of produce for Food Lion; Andrew Schuster, director of produce and floral for Target; and Reade Sievert, vice president of corporate produce for Associated Wholesale Grocers.

“The world of retailing and food culture (is) changing so fast at the moment,” Roerink said. 

“How America eats, shops and approaches food is vastly different than even just five years ago. The economy, technology, demographics, channel updates, convenience, healthy living, ethical living and more are mega trends that are driving profound changes in how consumers interact with produce. And it’s important to understand how and why as they provide the answers to understanding the 2019 performance and how we can win in the future.

“In a changed world, the same-old-same-old simply doesn’t work,” Roerink said. 

“Especially in a mature category like produce, we have to keep innovating in our products, presentation, marketing, promotions, portion sizes, packaging and more as other parts of the store and other channels are capitalizing on the strength of produce. The snack aisle, the beverage aisle and frozen foods, for instance, are all touting produce-based innovations, and that requires an answer on the fresh side or dollars will be lost.”

Kristin Yerecic Scott, marketing director for New Kensington, Pa.-based Yerecic Label and co-chairwoman of the SEPC education committee, described the report as providing insight into the entire shopper journey, from how people research fresh produce to how they prepares it at home. 

Both Yerecic Scott and Roerink noted that overlaying consumer research with sales data and retailer commentary gives the presentation some extra heft.

“I always say that what shoppers say they do and what they actually do doesn’t always match up, so this provides that validation point,” Yerecic Scott said.

Roerink said the report is developed with input from all parts of the supply chain.

“This provides an incredibly robust list of topics that help determine the most relevant new areas in addition to the ones that are always included, which are areas like consumption and channel choices,” Roerink said.

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