It was less than a year ago that the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) became official, following the union of the former Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh. The group represents the entire fresh produce and floral supply chains and is in the midst of preparing for its Global Produce & Floral Show, to be held Oct. 27-29 in Orlando.
Winsight Grocery Business posed some questions to IFPA Chief Strategy Officer Lauren Scott about what the industry association has been up to and where it’s headed.
WGB: Can you offer some highlights of what IFPA has been up to since the organization formed?
Scott: Simply put, a lot. Our focus has been advocating, connecting and guiding our membership and industry every day since we launched on Jan. 1. Our advocacy efforts manifest in our year-round work with policymakers and regulators on issues like food safety, immigration reform, supply chain, organics and nutrition. We provide opportunities for our members to connect, both domestically and globally, across a diverse portfolio of in-person programs as well as virtual offerings like our weekly town halls and podcasts. We help guide our membership by sharing solutions and insights across a number of topics that can spark conversation and new ideas. We educate our industry on the world and the world on our industry. It’s an exciting time at IFPA and we are just getting started.
WGB: Can you tell us some things to note at the conference in October?
Scott: First, I hope everyone has registered for this historic event. October will see the debut of the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show where we’ll bring together the entire global fresh produce and floral supply chain. The show welcomes produce and floral industry leaders, subject matter experts across all areas of impact including food safety, technology and more. We will deliver a transformative experience that provides value, connections, and opportunity for everyone across the industry no matter their role or their company’s size, products or location. What I am most looking forward to is our community coming together in person in Orlando this year for the show.
WGB: Is this organization doing any new/different things than the previous trade associations?
Scott: Yes! One example is our Fresh Fields Catalyst technology accelerator program, which aims to bring the best technology in the world to the best industry in the world. Guests at the global show in October will have an opportunity to meet and see these innovations during the expo. We have some other projects currently in development so please stay tuned.
WGB: What are the major pain points for fresh produce suppliers right now?
Scott: There are pressures from so many directions happening constantly, but the industry is resilient and believes in the work we do. In general, inflation and labor are affecting all points of the global supply chain and driving business costs up. In terms of food inflation, it remains extremely high, and consumers are feeling the pain. They are making changes to their restaurant engagement as well as their grocery purchases, according to our Produce MarketWatch monthly report. We do propriety research for our members, and in an August survey, we found 81% of primary grocery shoppers in American households bought at least one restaurant meal in August, with the highest restaurant penetration among Gen X, at 85%. This means that restaurant meals are not off the table, but consumers are more strategic about when they eat out versus order in, as well as what they order. We also found that a third of Americans are having difficulty affording needed groceries. Additionally, 43% of American households say their financial health is strained, nearly the same number as the 45% who say their financial situation is a lot or a little worse off than a year ago. This is why our members value the timely insights IFPA provides to help them ensure their products offer solutions to consumer challenges.
WGB: Is there anything that grocers should know about fresh produce at this particular time?
Scott: Produce, now more than ever, is vital to the health and well-being of all people. Only 1 in 10 people are eating enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, so the work grocers do to entice sales and spark strong returns is good for growers, operator businesses and all customers. Despite the challenges we’re seeing with inflation and the economy, fresh produce remains a key differentiation point in your operations. While produce is selling fewer pounds than in 2019 (-0.8%), units are up by 2.1% — demonstrating the demand for the product is strong. This shift to smaller pack sizes and other innovations are all part of what the buying community will see in Orlando for the Global Produce and Floral Show.