“Fruits, vegetables and floral connect us to each other and consumers in ways that other products cannot,” declared Cathy Burns, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), during her State of the Industry address Oct. 19 during the trade group’s annual Fresh Summit 2017 in New Orleans.
As one of the retail food industry’s most significant trade confabs of the year, Burns’ address at PMA’s Fresh Summit was a highlight of the event’s kick off, which began with education and insights on Thursday, Oct. 19, followed by the expo on Friday and Saturday Oct. 20-21, which boasts 1,000+ exhibitors and more than 19,500 attendees from over 60 countries.
During her keynote, Burns challenged attendees to expand cues from within the produce and floral industries with inspiration from other industries and broader trends “to bring your brand or organizational mission to life. I believe our greatest strength is turning the global produce and floral supply chains into an interconnected community of people and ideas,” said Burns, “because when you think about it, ideas and insights are as much a part of the value of connections as people.”
She further called on attendees to embrace inspired marketing that goes beyond advertising and sales to include analysis, research, consumer understanding, business strategy, cultural exploration, benchmarking, innovation and creativity.
While the stellar opportunities residing within the fresh produce industry “are white hot in culture,” Burns urged her audience to remain mindful “that being a great product is not enough. We need to have a meaningful role in consumers’ lives. We – and by we, I mean PMA in collaboration with you, the members and industry – must have a powerful resonating voice in conversations where trends and culture are being set.
“If we are supposed to be half the plate,” she continued, “we should be half the conversation. Ultimately our opportunity as an industry is to leverage our health halo while we reframe, repackage and reposition produce to meet consumer needs in more demand spaces and meal occasions.”
Burns also encouraged produce marketers to leverage the full range of technology to meet consumers where they are. “Whether high-tech or high-touch, how are you taking steps to ensure your customers have exceptional experiences with your business? Does your people strategy provide talent with exceptional experiences to grow and make a positive impact on our industry?”
The ultimate challenge before the industry, she noted, “is to make emotional, meaningful, inspiring connections with consumers that create preference and demand for fruits, vegetables and floral across cultures and conversations.”