The place for produce in diets

There’s no doubt dietary trends impact all sectors of the produce industry, from growers to wholesalers to retailers.

Shoppers vote with their purchases, said Sarah Limbert, RDN, LD, retail clinical dietitian for Kroger Health, and consumer desires influence how food is produced and marketed.

Diets emphasizing fruits and vegetables ¬are clearly more beneficial for the produce industry—and the good news is, most trends are moving in that direction.

“For example, the conversation today around plant-based eating is not just about vegan or vegetarian,” said Melinda Goodman, managing partner of FullTilt Marketing.

“It’s about recognizing that eating more plant-based foods is good for your health and good for the environment—which is good for the long-term sustainability and growth of the entire industry.”

Retail trends
On a retail level, dietary trends directly—and often dramatically—influence buying decisions. For example, potato popularity has declined with the focus on low-carb diets, while demand for kale, celery, apples, and other foods used in juicing has skyrocketed, says Jesse Himango, produce director for Fresh Thyme Farmers Market BB #:290751.

These consumption patterns then influence other sectors of the industry.

“Celery is a great example,” she said. “Growers and wholesalers have experienced major shortages and record prices due to increased demand. Depending on the commodity, growers react as quickly as possible—for example, celery growers can meet demand in months, while apple growers won’t see a crop increase for years.”

When demand is high and prices are good, growers often react by overplanting, which in turn depresses the market, Goodman said.

“A better solution would be to focus more on short-term consumer marketing and planning with the buyer to continue to maintain demand and pricing that allows for moderated growth of a trend,” she explains.

This is why it’s critical for the industry to closely monitor the market, so it can not only respond to trends, but also see them coming.

This is a multi-part series on dietary trends from the October 2019 Blueprints magazine.


Lisa Turner is a nutritionist and food writer in Boulder, CO.