Another United Fresh Convention has come and gone. Out of the many shows I have attended over the years, more than ever before, this year’s event gave me a tremendous amount of pride in our industry and excitement for the extraordinary opportunities for growth that lie ahead.
“1 Badge, 4 Shows” presented a single destination event for the total food supply chain to learn, network, innovate, and celebrate. It also provided the perfect backdrop to reveal one overwhelmingly obvious theme: the growing and monumental impact that “fresh” has on our world. The increasing demand for “fresh” is disrupting the global cold chain, provoking a local to global revolution, and driving new purchasing and eating behaviors amongst our next generations. There were some key insights about each of these produce trends that will influence the way we approach our business in the years to come.
The “fresh” impact on the global cold chain: Flexibility is key
The globalization of fresh foods has created complex, nomadic, and fragmented supply chains, which in turn intensifies the value proposition of the global cold chain. Transporting temperature sensitive cargo adds an additional degree of complexity, urgency, and responsibility for cold chains. An improperly managed cold chain can lead to serious quality and safety concerns.
For these reasons, change is the new norm. Supply chains are undergoing consistent evolution through innovation to maintain control and manage risk from plant to plate. This constant change requires organizations to be flexible and proactive in identifying the right solution at the right time.
Despite all of the factors seemingly working against us, there’s an increased level of confidence, speed, and knowledge of the complexities of sourcing fresh and managing logistics within our fresh marketplace. Adopting a flexible mindset will continue to open the door for growth.
The “fresh” impact on local: Local is globalizing
Local sourcing demands for produce are seasonal, with harvest schedules ranging from one week to a few months, depending on the size of the grower. This seasonality means that supply chains move around a lot, thus creating the need for cold storage capacity. Many local or seasonal growers don’t have the capital to invest in cold storage facilities, however, and need help aggregating their supply with flexible, seasonal cold storage solutions to accommodate consumers’ local demands. These facilities need to be appropriately positioned and agile in nature, which is often best supported through a more expansive regional or global network.
In addition, local supply chains require global supply for annual production. The modern day supply chain has multiple channels of distribution; when buyers can’t purchase local and organic products year round, they fill in with mainstream supply from all over the world. Therefore, even our local supply chains are represented and supported by regional and global supply chains in order to fulfill consumers’ local demands. Shippers and receivers are leveraging cross docks, third party warehouses, e-fulfilment centers, custom transition points, free port trade zones, and using direct store deliveries. Fulfilling local fresh demand has become a global endeavor, and a tremendous opportunity for the cold chain industry to embrace.
The “fresh” impact on the next generation: Gen Z can drive growth momentum
Millennials are driving the growth of fresh produce. They are talking about it, tweeting about it, taking pictures of their meals, and sharing them on social media. In fact, Millennials have driven 20% growth in the fresh category over the last decade.
As Millennials continue to grab purchasing power from Baby Boomers, it would be short-sighted of us to focus solely on this demographic. If the fresh food trend was created by Millennials, Gen Z will have the impact to drive this momentum. By encouraging kids to adopt healthy eating habits with fresh fruits and vegetables, we ensure the future health of both our kids and our industry.
We’ve made a lot of progress together in providing today’s youth with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, but we need to keep demonstrating our commitment to this important goal by focusing our attention on all environments in which kids are making eating choices, including grocery stores, restaurants, and schools.
The Robinson Fresh Kids Speak Fresh campaign was launched at United Fresh and features kids talking about “fresh” eating. The goal is to drive awareness, support, and engagement in the effort to increase kids’ access to fruits and vegetables.
Learn more about the Kids Speak Fresh campaign, and join the conversation with #KidsSpeakFresh.