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Special Report: Building Blocks of Food Safety

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 | Posted in Food Safety/Traceability by Renee Harrison

Food safety is one of the chief concerns of all who work in the produce industry. When companies build or revise their food safety programs, they often ask, “Where do I start?” “What are the key elements needed for a comprehensive program?” “What food safety risks should I focus on?” To help answer these questions, Produce Marketing Association enlisted the help of noted produce safety expert, Dr. Devon Zagory, to write about the foundational elements of a food safety program. Any successful food safety program has to be built on solid practices in sanitation, training, maintenance, supplier verification, environmental monitoring, and operating procedures. With all of the food safety requirements coming from regulatory bodies, buyers, consumers, advocacy groups and others, it may be appropriate to call a time out to reconsider what the basic building blocks of a robust food safety program should be.

Download Devon Zagory's full report for five basic steps to achieve a food safety program.

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Webinar: Strategic Marketing for Produce and Floral

Thursday, 12 October 2017 | Posted in Marketing by Renee Harrison

What is marketing? We are all familiar with the term, but what does it really mean? In this webinar, we will begin to better define marketing and how it presents itself in our industry. PMA’s CMO, Lauren M. Scott, will define what marketing can be in the produce and floral industries, review the different facets of the function and share how you can start to use strategic marketing to grow your business.

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The Sustainability Tug-Of-War

Thursday, 5 October 2017 | Posted in Industry Issues by Renee Harrison

There is a significant challenge ahead for fresh produce businesses to balance consumer demand for convenience with growing concern for environmental issues. Consumers want top quality products, convenient pre-prepared options and safe, healthy produce bursting with flavour. At the same time, consumers want companies to focus on sustainability, for example preventing food waste or using reusable or biodegradable packaging.

Cut, washed and pre-prepared packaged fresh produce is firmly established as a popular option for consumers. Not only is it convenient, but also extends shelf life and protects the product. However, as demand for environmentally-friendly packaging grows, the challenge will be to find economically viable and sustainable solutions.

Innovations in packaging have a clear potential to reduce food waste but consumers are generally sceptical about packaging in the fresh category. Food packaging is so ingrained in our everyday lives that it's hard to imagine life without it. The issue is that a substantial amount of food packaging is not reused or recycled making it a liability to our environment. As a result, there is a significant amount of research going into developing eco-friendly alternatives however the higher price tag on these options is often a deterrent for businesses.

One of the simplest of solutions is to sell loose produce and reusable bags however branded packaging plays an important role in expanding a company’s visibility. It allows businesses to innovate and increase the value of their products. Branded packaging also plays a significant role in consumer education whether that be by communicating the nutritional benefits of a product or offering serving suggestions. Brand owners also have an opportunity to educate the consumer by explaining the positive impacts of packaging on reducing food waste and extending shelf life. In this case, branding can help to shift the perception that some packaging is unnecessary and wasteful.

Fresh produce packaging is here to stay, at least for now. There is a role for packaging to play in delivering usable and convenient fresh produce to consumers, with improved quality, freshness and longer shelf-life while reducing waste and increasing consumption. The demand for businesses to reduce environmentally unfriendly packaging is a complicated economical proposition yet consumers are pushing for businesses to invest in environmentally sustainable initiatives. As more research and development into practical alternatives continues, it’s clear that the future doesn’t need to be a tug-of-war between sustainability and business bottom line. Sustainability doesn’t have to be a cost of doing business; it can be a catalyst for innovation, open new markets, and lead to financial success. Which leaves the questions; what are you doing to tap into this opportunity?

How Consumer Trends in Grocery Shopping are Changing Retail

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 | Posted in Industry/Consumer Trends by Renee Harrison

For decades, shoppers were loyal to a single store that would fulfill all of their food and beverage needs. Today, they’re far more likely to embrace a variety of retail locations and formats to ensure they get exactly what they want, when they want it. What does this mean for retailers looking to stay one step ahead of consumer trends?

On average, consumers shop at two to three different retail channels to fulfill their grocery needs, according to the Food Marketing Institute — including supermarkets, supercenters, discount,How Consumer Trends in Grocery Shopping Are Changing Retail convenience, club, and e-commerce stores. Considering how shoppers feel about grocery shopping in general, that's more than a little surprising. Nearly half say grocery shopping is a chore they try to spend as little time on as possible, according to Nielsen’s Think Smaller for Big Growth study. If that’s true, then why are so many of them spreading their purchases across multiple retail formats?

First, it’s about priorities. High-quality produce (57%), convenient location (56%), and product availability (54%) are more important to today’s shopper than simply finding the lowest price, according to the Nielsen report. As far as products, 75 percent say produce is the most important, followed by fresh meat, poultry, and seafood (60%). And 67 percent of all shoppers say they actively seek products with healthful ingredients. Combine those preferences with easy access to technology, and you’ve got the most discerning consumer in economic history.

Secondly, it’s about options — and shoppers being overwhelmed by them. Today’s consumer has gotten more specific in their tastes, and they’re no longer impressed with quantity when they value quality much more. As a result, the average square footage of supermarkets has decreased since 2006, and smaller retail formats have begun to thrive, according to Packaged Facts. Large supermarkets and hypermarkets account for 51 percent of global sales, but smaller formats are growing at a faster rate, according to Nielsen’s The Future of Grocery report. In fact, smaller formats have been doubling or more than doubling large supermarkets’ rate of growth year over year.

“Perhaps the new retail mantra should be ‘go small or go home,’ as the ‘bigger is better’ paradigm has been challenged virtually everywhere,” said Steve Matthesen, global president of retail for Nielsen, in their 2016 Think Smaller for Big Growth study.

Lastly, but unsurprisingly, it’s about technology. About 25 percent of shoppers say they order grocery products online, and 55 percent are willing to do so in the future, according to The Future of Grocery report. AmazonFresh, Instacart, and Fresh Direct are just a few of the online grocery retailers capitalizing on shoppers’ desire for variety and convenience. They also have one distinct advantage over brick and mortar retailers: customizable communication. It’s far easier to tailor to customers’ preferences when they’re shopping in an online, data-driven environment. That’s a huge advantage when less than half of shoppers believe their main grocery retailer communicates with them in a relevant way.

But regardless of the format, the fact that high-quality fresh produce remains a top priority for shoppers, combined with the growing importance of quality and convenience presents produce marketers with an opportunity to make visits to the produce aisle more memorable and engaging by providing shoppers with support and guidance on how to incorporate more produce in their lives. 

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Webinar: Sanitation, your best crisis management tool

Monday, 14 August 2017 | Posted in Food Safety/Traceability by Renee Harrison

We all hear about recalls occurring in the food industry on an almost daily basis. But, how many of these recalls are caused by poor sanitation practices or sanitation practices that are not consistently performed on a daily basis? Are you confident that your sanitation program is working effectively to produce a safe product? Sanitation programs along with Good agricultural practices, Good manufacturing practices and HACCP based food safety principals are all tools in your toolbox in your food safety program and truly one of your best crisis management tools to minimizing food safety risks in your operation.

We know that if conditions are allowed to exist in a facility that promotes growth of bacteria like Salmonella or Listeria, that bacteria will ultimately find a way to migrate into your product or production facility. In order to control these kinds of conditions, a robust and thorough sanitation program along with a solid environmental monitoring program needs to be in place. 

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