ANAHEIM, Calif. – Produce Marketing Association CEO Cathy Burns discussed global macro trends and consumer behavior trends during the annual State of the Industry address at Fresh Summit, and she encouraged industry members to consider how they can leverage those trends.

Burns wrapped up her talk with this question: “How do we as an industry be of profound use to consumers?”

She included in her presentation ways that companies need to be meeting consumer expectations and ways that companies, through their marketing, can meet consumers where they are.

Regarding the former, Burns noted that a survey showed 28% of consumers said farmers should care most about sustainability, 72% expect social responsibility from their grocery retailers, and 62% expect the same from their restaurants.

“It’s now up to us to deliver on those expectations of responsibility and sustainability throughout the supply chain,” Burns said. “As a result, businesses are changing or more effectively promoting their sustainability practices.”

For the second year in a row, Burns explained that research shows social media and video are key tools for companies to educate consumers about their practices in those areas.

People around the globe who use the internet on average spend 142 minutes a day on social media, and the top platforms are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and WeChat – and 90% of Instagram users are 35 or younger.

Burns also noted that U.S. adults spend an average of 1 hour and 16 minutes watching videos on digital devices. Video is a powerful medium because retention of information is much better compared to text and the brain processes video much faster, she said. More than half of video is being viewed on mobile, and much of what is being viewed is being shared with others.

“Consider how you can use video to engage and educate your consumers,” Burns said.

She also highlighted three trends on a global level that companies should be cognizant of in the coming years: rapid urbanization, an aging population, and accelerating migration.

Burns also touched on food safety, a topic that PMA’s chief science and technology officer Bob Whitaker expanded on in a later session.

“Product recalls and foodborne illness outbreaks continue to affect consumer confidence in our food supply,” Burns said. “If we don’t correct the produce safety problems in our industry, there will continue to be erosion … We see it every time it happens on an outbreak, a problem with one product affects an entire category as consumer confidence and trust fall, and without trust, there is nothing.”

Burns also discussed talent acquisition, e-commerce growth the plant-based food movement, among other topics, in the annual address.


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