In the State of the Industry brunch on Friday ProduceAssociation President Bryan Silbermann encouraged attendees to get on board with the changes occurring in and around the produce industry.
More than ever, the consumer is calling the shots and demanding more from their suppliers and retailers.
“Shoppers and diners are seizing control in ways we couldn’t imagine just a few short years ago,” said Silbermann.
Telling the farmer story has moved from just putting a face on produce packaging, Silbermann said. Oprah Winfrey owns her own farm.
“So we’ve gone from the celebrity chef to the celebrity farmer in just a few short years and whether this is driven by media moguls or desire to know how fruits and vegetables are grown, consumer interest in farming shows no sign of waning,” said Silermann.
“It’s up to our industry to create and develop ways to engage consumers.”
Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said there’s growing demand for better nutrition at restaurants, and chefs have been adding more local, artisanal, fruit or vegetable products to menus. (SN’s Liz Webber reports on more foodservice trends from Fresh Summit.)
Fresh Summit speakers also pushed the industry to hire more women to executive roles.
“We would argue that if you are in an industry that is very complex and very relationship driven like the produce industry, a more feminine style of leadership is actually going to be more successful,” said Elisa van Dam, senior director of executive education and corporate outreach for the Simmons School of Management.
In addition to looking internally at hiring practices, Silberman and president and CEO of Bolthouse Farms Jeff Dunn challenged the produce industry to be as creative with driving demand as the snack food industry.
“You know I hate to pick on junk food, but I can’t help myself. They shouldn’t have all the fun. So we got to find a way to create that much energy around what we sell which has this greater purpose,” said Dunn.
Sam Kass, senior policy advisor on nutrition to the first lady and executive director of Let’s Move, said that the first lady is also committed to helping the industry market fruits and vegetables more effectively to both children and adult consumers.
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