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From the quest for improved health to easing time constraints on meal preparation, from the influence of the information age and urbanisation to concern for sustainability and food safety, consumer trends increasingly transcend borders. These trends underscore fresh produce’s importance to consumers — and food retailers — the world over. Nielsen Fresh Food Insight Q3 2012 research finds that quality of fruits and vegetables ranks among the top 10 drivers for store selection across the globe, with supermarkets or hypermarkets providing 50 percent of produce consumed globally.

As obesity creeps across borders, so do consumer health trends and government programmes encouraging greater fruit and vegetable consumption. According to a Rio de Janeiro State University study, obesity-related diseases annually cost the Brazilian government $1.77 billion. It now uses programmes and campaigns to increase physical activity and consumption of a balanced diet to counter the problem.
You’ll find a similar story in China. PMA’s recent market report on the country shows that a rising level of disposable income has shifted Chinese food habits toward fast food. This puts China at future risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity — the same lifestyle-related diseases found globally. Surfacing in tandem are government-backed public education programmes to promote healthy eating habits.
No matter where consumers live, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables also requires merchandising, and food retailers around the world are realizing the power of the “connected”consumer. Trending everywhere is the use of social media, along with technologies such as quick response (QR) codes and smartphone apps linked with packaging and in-store promotions.
The best way to educate consumers is to give them access to recipes as they’re shopping and deciding what to purchase for dinner. QR codes can do just that when linked directly to recipes, best cooking methods and even grower stories. And in countries such as China, which surpassed the United States in 2011 as the world’s largest grocery market, with food shopping worth almost $951 billion, the progress of merchandising innovations, such as selling produce to consumers online and on television, QVC-style, is worth noting.
Demand in emerging markets such as China, India, Russia and the Middle East will increase competition among exporting countries that have traditionally looked at North American markets to sell into, whereas growth in local consumption among exporting countries such as South Africa, Mexico, Peru and Chile will change the dynamics for importing into those countries.
Strategic partners in fruits and vegetables — growers, exporters, service providers, distribution centers, stores and formats — will be increasingly valuable to food retailers wanting to ensure that a wide variety of healthy, fresh produce is consistently available to shoppers. Among the benefits of such partnerships are sufficient and continuous availability, uniform quality and best taste, the satisfaction of sustainability and food safety concerns, innovations, exclusivity, and sales opportunities.
Globally, produce remains one of the most profitable parts of the store. Paying attention to consumer, retail and produce trends inside and outside your local landscape can be extremely useful. Quite simply, understanding the opportunities and challenges for the future of fresh produce around the world can equip your local stores to be better places to shop.