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Southeast Produce Council's Southern Innovations Presents

Southeast Produce Council's Southern Innovations Presents "What's New? From the Consumer View 2022" Educational Session; David Sherrod Comments



NASHVILLE, TN - In the United States, we are seemingly inundated with technology. From smartphones and tablets to computers and appliances, innovation is everywhere, and many consumers love to evolve with the sector. However, as the Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) revealed in its What’s New? From the Consumer View 2022 educational session at Southern Innovations, there are large generational gaps in the perception and acceptance of technology in food production, retail, and foodservice.

David Sherrod, President and Chief Executive Officer, Southeast Produce Council“Only 12 percent of consumers meet the daily recommended amount of fresh produce,” said David Sherrod, President and Chief Executive Officer of the SEPC. “That means there is a lot of room for growth. We looked at how technology and innovation at the farm, in the store, on the menu, and for the planet can be the helping hand for consumers to boost their fresh produce consumption. Exhibitors were encouraged to highlight innovations in each section and What’s New? Silent Theater presentations took place throughout the exhibit hours by pioneering organizations.”

Some of the key findings presented in the educational session include:

  • 74 percent are unaware of how growers use technology, but 4 in 10 are interested in the virtual field, farm, or greenhouse visits
  • Half of consumers like the idea of mini greenhouses in-store or in the restaurant, inspired by 55 percent of consumers wanting to know more about how the fresh produce they buy is grown
  • New mixed varieties and new sizes, such as one-portion cauliflowers or mini avocados, draw the highest interest
  • Consumers expressed high interest in a number of ways to boost fresh produce consumption at restaurants

As the Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) revealed in its What’s New? From the Consumer View 2022 educational session at Southern Innovations, there are large generational gaps in the perception and acceptance of technology in food production, retail, and foodservice

“The study also found consumer interest in crossing over trends seen in retail onto restaurant menus,” Sherrod noted. “Seasonal and local fruit and vegetables are the top areas of interest in retail and also lead the list of desired menu attributes for foodservice.”

Yet, in today’s inflationary environment, 49 percent of consumers feel the best cost and quality should be a restaurant’s priority—overriding the origin, including global sourcing. Consumer agreement on restaurants using fresh produce versus frozen or canned is much higher, at 72 percent. And 54 percent like to see more unique fresh produce on the menu.

Another area of interest was food waste, which has been a prevailing challenge for the produce and retail sectors. Four in 10 Americans struggle with fruit and vegetables going bad before they could eat them, and 91 percent end up throwing some fresh produce away. Additionally, 37 percent struggle with fresh produce being sold in packages that are too big for their households.

Seasonal and local fruit and vegetables are the top areas of interest in retail and also lead the list of desired menu attributes for foodservice

“With food waste at home a clear issue, 46 percent of Americans love the idea of various shelf-life technologies,” Sherrod said. “Consumers want to know about the impact on food safety, nutrition, and taste but are excited to see solutions. In reality, virtually every produce brand and every retailer has sustainability commitments in place. However, consumers aren’t aware. We have an opportunity to do good and build positive sentiment among consumers at the same time.”

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Southeast Produce Council

The Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) is a member-driven, non-profit association of more than 2,500 leaders from all facets...