In the words of the 20th Century poet and philosopher Bob Dylan, “The times they are a- changin’.”
And the change may be as apparent in the grocery store as anywhere. Driving that change is a more informed and a more engaged consumer, says Lorna Christie, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Produce Marketing Association.
Christie, as keynote luncheon speaker at the Texas Produce Convention last month in San Antonio, said consumers are changing the way they shop for food and are asking for more information about where products come from, how they are grown and how they will fit into the family’s menus.
“The change is fueled by baby boomers,” Christie said, “who are concerned with health issues.” A new consumer has emerged, a “flexterian,” someone who prefers fruits and vegetables but will eat meat. “We encourage them to continue the trend,” she said, “by emphasizing nutrition benefits.”
Consumers are also changing their shopping habits, buying food from different places—Target, Wal-Mart and Walgreens—instead of traditional supermarkets, and they have more choices. “On-line grocery shopping is growing, so we need to make certain produce is part of that convenience trend.”
She said 90 percent of mothers with children under 18 shop online and 32 million are active on social media. “Some 68 percent own a Smartphone, and they are clipping coupons. But only a small number of our members use coupons as a selling tool.”
More dads are taking on grocery shopping and cooking duties. “That’s a powerful force, so how do we connect to it?”
Consumers want more information about their food purchases. “Some 59 percent want a connection with the farmer,” she said. That feeds into the value of locally grown food.