Food will win!

11-08-2020    12:28   |    Greenhouse Grower

While the COVID-19 pandemic creates uncertainty on a world-wide scale, one thing is for sure: people want their fresh fruits and vegetables, and as United Fresh Produce Association Chairman Michael Muzyk from Baldor Specialty Foods says, “Food will win!”

They say necessity is the mother of invention. The ability to innovate and adapt is the reason this industry continues to thrive. An industry that is centered around perishable commodities has to act quickly and decisively when there are supply chain disruptions. Of course, no one could have prepared for the rapid halt of nearly half of those supply chain channels. Still, the industry went into action immediately to bring produce to the consumer.

Time will tell how many of these shifts will be temporary, and how many will persist as part of the new normal. For example, there has been explosive growth in direct-to-consumer delivery. While experts have long projected growth in consumers’ use of online services from retailers, no one could have predicted that many foodservice distributors would also enter this market, offering produce boxes, as well as other staples, directly to consumers’ homes or to centralized pick up locations. In some areas, growers also began selling directly to consumers.

The rapid and dramatic market shifts left some with surpluses while others were struggling to fill demand. This seems to have settled into a new equilibrium now that we are several months into the pandemic, with no clear end date. United Fresh publishes quarterly market reports (FreshFacts on Retail, and Fresh Insights on Foodservice) with analysis that helps explain some of these observations.


An industry that is centered around perishable commodities has to act quickly and decisively when there are supply chain disruptions. That’s exactly what the fresh produce industry has done.
Photo Courtesy of Greenhouse Grower

Changes Create New Opportunities for Connection

There are a few silver linings that can benefit the produce industry in the long term.

Consumers are cooking more. With time on their hands and limited options outside of the home, many consumers are willing to experiment with ingredients they may not have used before. Specialty fruits and vegetables that were more traditionally reserved for restaurant settings have found a place on their plates. The pandemic has forced us to turn to our computers, and savvy suppliers have provided recipes, tutorials, and cooking lessons to aid consumers who want to incorporate a diversity of produce into their diets.

This exploration is happening within the produce industry, too. At a conventional trade show, suppliers may display their newest products and offer a few samples to taste, hoping that the right buyer will pass their booth. Going virtual has opened up a whole new world.

The first week of United Fresh LIVE! closed with more attendees, including buyers, walking the virtual show floor than ever before. Although exhibitors couldn’t offer samples in real-time (although several did provide forms and expressed mailed samples to those interested), attendees found a plethora of information in each booth, from recipes to videos, to virtual taste tests and chef competitions.

Vendors also provided detailed information on their products including seasonality, growing regions, and other items of interest. The search function on the website allowed buyers to identify suppliers they may never have encountered in the pre-COVID days and connecting with the right person became easy and low-pressure.

Additionally, smaller companies, including those who may be just entering the space, such as many controlled environment agriculture growers, had the same visibility on the platform as the big brands within the industry. As an association, part of our mission is to facilitate connections, and we are proud to be able to connect people around the globe in new ways.

It’s unclear when we’ll be firmly in the post-COVID environment. But there is no doubt the produce industry is resilient and remains strong. Things will change, as they always have. But the creativity and innovation within the industry, especially for those who have embraced online platforms to connect directly with consumers — and with their supply chain — leave us optimistic that food will win.

Source: Greenhouse Grower
Photo Credit: <a href='https://www.freepik.com/photos/food'>Food photo created by senivpetro - www.freepik.com</a>


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