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First Annual Fresh Foods Innovation Summit
robinson-fresh-foods-innovation-summit-freshspective

First Annual Fresh Foods Innovation Summit

October 31, 2019

“Eating fresh to improve health and well-being” was the underlying theme at the First Annual Fresh Foods Innovation Summit held recently in Newport Beach, California, by Robinson Fresh. More than 30 senior executives from a number of leading fresh produce distributors, grocery retailers, and produce growers convened for two days of presentations and discussions. Simplifying healthy fresh food options and driving sustainability into the fresh supply chain were a few of the key challenges highlighted during the summit.

Key takeaways from this Robinson Fresh-sponsored summit appear below.

Embrace the well-being category

“Grocers and their supply chains understand consumers better than healthcare does,” according to Mark Walinske, president and CEO of Benovate. In his presentation, “The Role of Fresh Food in Preventative Healthcare”, Mark described how strategically aligning favorable well-being trends with your customers’ quests for personal, relevant nutritional information and services, will have a positive effect on the bottom line for the fresh produce industry.

The wellness economy is a driving force, with $4.2 trillion (USD) spent in 2017. Healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss ($702B) outperformed traditional and complementary medicine ($360B) by nearly double.

Younger customers, such as Millennials and Gen Z, are spurring today’s healthy eating revolution by demanding healthier, fresher, convenient options when they shop in-store and online. These consumers are searching for pre-cut fruits and vegetables and easy-to-prepare meal kits for options on the go. These “quick fix” favorites sell faster, have a shorter shelf life (from a few hours to a few days), and require extra prep time on the back end, creating the need for “micro” supply chains.

That’s not to say that older customers, 60+ years, should be ignored. As a whole, baby boomers are increasingly digitally savvy and act like they’re 45. Put off by healthcare costs, these senior citizens are spending more on quality of life—and looking for healthier fresh produce items to help extend it.

Building a culture of healthy eating

“An estimated 80% of cardiovascular disease—our most prevalent chronic disease—could be prevented via a healthy diet and lifestyle,” according to Jessica Donze Black, national vice president of Community Health, American Heart Association (AHA), in her presentation, “Driving Healthier Lives by Increasing Consumption of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.”

But why then, when we want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, only 1.5% of American adults eat a diet recommended for ideal cardiovascular health?
Good question!

This fact is clear: eating a poor diet is a significant problem in the United States. Consumers know they should eat healthier but don’t know where to start.

The AHA Foodscape Initiative™ is working toward sustainable nutrition security for all. One of the main goals includes strengthening the connection between the public health community and the food sector.

We deserve better nutrition, accessible and affordable options, sustainable production and work forces, and help to make healthier choices. An improved food supply will help create a world with longer, healthier lives.

Helping people live happier, healthier lives

Understanding the shift from knowledge-based eating to more emotional, feeling-based decision making can help you “Find a Deeper Connection with Shoppers and Consumers,” according to Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH).

Gen Z and Millennials leading the way

“Rather than a prescriptive recommendation to eat a certain amount of fruits and vegetables each day, consumers (particularly Gen Z and Millennials) want actionable, realistic, and FUN approaches that make eating fresh produce easy—making them feel confident and happy,” noted Ms. Reinhardt Kapsak.

It’s important to tap into the emotional connection consumers have to the fruit and vegetable eating experience while inspiring long-term, sustainable behavior change.

Consumers are increasingly looking to add more plant-based foods to their diets for a variety of reasons, including health and sustainability. PBH Foundation strives to help people feel more inspired to want to eat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, making this action part of what they do every day.

Ignite a new relationship with fruits and vegetables

According to PBH’s research, Novel Approaches to Measuring and Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, 2017, there’s a correlation between the number of days per week and the number of fruits and vegetables consumed as it relates to a person’s level of happiness. Of the people PBH surveyed, 68% who eat fruit 6-7 days a week say they have been happy in the last four weeks, compared to 54% of those who eat fruit less often and 33% who eat no fruit at all.

For vegetables, 65% of people who eat vegetables 6-7 days a week say they have been happy, compared to 55% who eat vegetables less often and 42% who eat no vegetables at all.
Reinhardt Kapsak noted the up-tapped opportunity to leverage a wide range of positive emotions, including happiness, among others, to inspire repeated consumer produce purchases over time.

Government policy and trade

Trade policy is impacting the agriculture industry and certain sectors of the produce industry as exports to China decrease, according to Jason Craig, director of Government Affairs for C.H. Robinson.

Domestic trucking is looking at two potentially significant regulatory actions that will impact the fresh supply chain. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is looking to clarify the definition of agricultural commodity as it relates to any exemptions to hours of service (HOS) rules during harvest season. The second action is a broad adjustment to many aspects of general HOS rules that would each provide more flexibility in a driver’s day and potentially add available capacity to the marketplace whenever the changes go into effect.

Panel Discussion: Sustainability Efforts in the Food Industry

It’s important for suppliers, retailers, and growers to understand the consumer psychology behind today’s sustainability movement to provide their customers with more convenient and sustainable produce offerings. Leading the sustainability efforts in the food industry discussion were thought leaders Mike Meinhardt, vice president sales and marketing at RedHat Co-op, creator of Misfits Fruits & Veggies, David McLain, leader of Printpack’s efforts to help customers realize a more sustainable future, and Mary Meehan, cultural scientist and founder of Metametrix, a cloud-based cultural analytics tool.

The panel discussed the problem of food waste and the growing demand for innovation in the sustainability arena, going deeper into how to implement and measure both incremental and step-change improvements in your company’s sustainability strategy.

Each year, over 20 billion pounds of food is wasted in North America—about 200 pounds for each man, woman, and child. Of all produce grown, as much a 30% of a harvest can be rejected, simply due to size, shape, or color, of which, they don’t meet grocery store standards.

Final thoughts

At Robinson Fresh, we’re proud to offer sourcing and supply chain solutions to help provide your customers with more convenient, healthy, and sustainable produce offerings.

Connect with us if you are interested in learning more about our global supply or merchandising opportunities.

Gina Garven

Gina Garven - V.P. of Commercial Development & Analytics, Robinson Fresh

Gina Garven’s expertise in the produce industry includes category and consumer insights, financial planning and analysis, delivery of global BI and technology solutions and retail and foodservice business development, with a strong background and passion for developing supply chain solutions that support our customer’s end consumer. In her role of V.P. of commercial development & analytics for Robinson Fresh, she is responsible for strengthening Robinson Fresh’s industry leadership through the creation of best in class category insights and BI solutions that support our customers and the development of our global commercial strategy. Before joining Robinson Fresh in 2009, she held positions in retail that spanned roles in demand planning, supply chain consulting and procurement. She is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in 2003 in Business Management and Communications.
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