Nov 29, 2019

Good Things Take Time

(Check out how classy this pack looks and has taken strawberry packaging to the next level).

Wow, time flies and the last eight weeks have run into one another quite quickly. During this time, I have been involved in several activities in our industry in different parts of NZ as well as the USA.

Hedgerows launched their new compostable strawberry tray with printed top seal lidding film. This project has been six months in the making in terms of getting the tray size right for the new 300-gram pack being introduced, choosing the right film, then printing the film for trays.

PMA A-NZ Increasing Fresh Produce Consumption Workshop

In September I attended the PMA A-NZ Increasing Fresh Produce Consumption Workshop which was well worth attending and I’m more than happy I made the time to go. I have tried to briefly capture (workshop ran for a couple of hours) some key takeaway/interesting information that I gleaned.

Sam Clayfield opened the workshop with a summary of recently released reports by PMA A-NZ that explored the drivers and barriers to fresh produce consumption by consumers along with looking into the experiences we want from the food we eat. The research was used as a basis to explore the ways in which we can increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables across key/special eating occasions at the workshop. An interesting fact that they discovered through the research was everyone looks at fruit and vegetables as healthy and knows that it is healthy, but it is actually having negative connotations when they are looking at purchasing it as was bringing up the memory ‘you can have your dessert as long as you eat your fruit and vegies. My takeaway is that we still need to keep the health message, but we also need to capture and capitalise the message about the experience you’ll get when eating.

The workshop was then transferred to thought provoking industry leader Lisa Cork whose reputation has been built on Branding and Packaging although Lisa considers herself a Strategist (consumer led) first and foremost.

To help us get into the thought process Lisa started with a “State of the Industry” update and then got us to put our thinking caps on to explore ways in which we can increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables here in New Zealand. The point was made ‘In fresh produce we know we are on trend and our product is good for people so why aren’t we seeing sales take off’.

The session was broken into two parts using recent PMA State of the Industry research which is combining bigger picture macro trends then narrowing it down into more demand drivers using resources that were pulled in.

3 x core Mega

· Technology

· Changing Demographics

· Globalisation

Smart Phones arriving on the scene 10-12 years ago along with the internet and what we call ‘the internet of things’ has been the catalyst to change things as we know it. As all these things have become connected, we have started to see technology like smart devices and wearables (e.g. Fitbit or medical socks for diabetics).

As smart devices get smarter, we will move to a point where we can scan with our wristwatch. Already there are apps (technology yet to be perfected) but if you’re a person who logs your food the next step will be that you can take a photo (instead of manually logging it) of your food and it will instantaneously upload what is on your plate and have a probe which will determine what’s in your food.

Smart Device in the home – Samsung smart fridge (family hub). This fridge has had smart devising implanted into it. The screen can play, via Bluetooth, Spotify music and it can be directly connected to Countdown online and takes verbalised commands. When you open it up its connected to an app and there are also cameras inside which will tell you if you have Milk or not. You scan something with your app, and it can pre-upload automatically to your existing shopping list.

The arrival of smart devices is fantastic bringing benefits to consumers however, it will pose some challenges down the line that we need to be aware of such as how are we going to influence demand of consumption if everything is automated and automatically replenished. How do we get a new item (e.g. new apple variety) into a programme when someone has a pre-existing list and a smart device auto replenishment mode?

Smart Ag Tech also sits in the top picture and already there is a robotic apple harvester at T&G Global in Hawkes Bay. Worldwide there is a lot of VC Capital being put into Agrobotics (Lisa was in a room where 5 companies had 1.2 billion from VC) like a drone crop spraying and farm robotics.

We need to think about how these things will affect us in fresh produce as there is change coming.

Globalisation of online retail is happening in every single continent and every single retailer and will be here to stay but we need to be careful because online shopping is not great for branding at this stage unless you are in China (who care about brands).

The main part is the technology space is moving fast with a lot happening so it’s important to talk to our teams about how this technology will affect us in fresh produce.

Demographics - The target audience used to be female shoppers between 25-45 and then social media arrived and now there is significant diversity between all shoppers. The opportunity to have a marketing message of one size fits all has now gone. There is now a 6th generation (Genvoice)- the group sitting under the GenZ (Spark – rule the world add used).

With the arrival of voice activation, we are seeing children who as soon as they are old enough to verbalise will become influencers in purchasing products online. Lisa did a test example of the impact of voice-based commands in apps such as amazon. She asked Alexa to order Cuties (brand of mandarin). Items matching cuties were shown and a big brand of diapers in America called Cuties was at the top. If we move to voice how will that affect brands? Will they be understood? Can they be verbalised and will the system know that brand and show that product? Once Lisa became more specific and asked for Cuties Mandarins then it appeared on the list. How many brands if they are verbalised would be understood in the online environment? Will voice activation systems be able to understand my brand?

There is an increasing mindfulness from people about what people put in their mouths which has bought about the introduction of Plant based food (whose tried an Impossible Burger?). This is part of the macro concern about the environment, animal welfare and health, and the whole sustainability of our planet. The popular view now is that plant based is better for our world although there are facts that contradict this, the movement is growing. In addition, there is also ‘slaughter free meat’ to add to the list. This is animal cell based where they extract cells from cows/chicken/bluefin tuna and they have created a way to make a protein rich slurry, they grow cells and turn the cells into slaughter free meat products. It’s done in a big vat and comes out like a long tube which can then turned into things like meatballs and chicken breasts! This is mainly being driven by changing demographics and our new generation of consumers. How are we going to tap into this generation to get our fair share of their purchasing power?

Trends to keep on your list:

Plant based replacements have taken off

Social licence conversations – example is why does the business of growing cattle or vegetables have more rights to water or land than someone else?

Re-classification of fruits - there are now some vegetables that are on the low sugar fruit list

After taking in all this information we broke off into groups which is a whole new storey in itself that I won’t go into.

PMA USA - Last, but not least I have just arrived back form PMA Fresh Summit which was held in Anaheim Convention Centre in Anaheim, California. This year the show had a record breaking 24,000 attendees making the most of the two-day exhibition. This year was the second year the show went with the Friday, Saturday format (previously Saturday/Sunday) which seems to be resulting in a more balanced attendance over both days.

The biggest trend of the show appeared to be the shift towards home compostable, environmentally friendly packaging with many of the big names in tomatoes, berries, apples, oranges and kiwifruit all show casing their products in various forms of sustainable packaging. Mucci Farms took out the Best Sustainable Packaging award at Fresh Summit 2019.

The package is composed of a tray made from agricultural waste and the lidding film is made of sugarcane and wood fibres.

This post was written by

Ann Cameron

Ann is the Sales Manager for consumables. She gets a kick out of helping her customers implement the right packaging options for their products because it can make a real difference to their business.