PMA: Seats at bigger tables

Produce Marketing Association CEO Cathy Burns delivers the State of the Industry address at Fresh Summit in Anaheim.

ANAHEIM, CA—While the produce industry looks to connect with consumers as their lives change via technology and sustainable efforts, PMA CEO Cathy Burns stressed appealing to their emotions.

“How do we as an industry be of profound use to consumers?” she asked attendees of her October 17 State of the Industry address.

Burns’ presentation on the opening day of the Produce Marketing Association’s annual Fresh Summit convention touched on emerging technology that fruit and vegetable grower-shippers, marketers and retailers are working on.

But she also went back to some basics, such as imploring supply chain wide commitments to traceability and food safety improvement.

Burns said PMA’s produce safety best practices training module on its website is live and gives turnkey food safety education and certification.

She said PMA and the industry has gained exposure at such events as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and the upcoming CES annual technology conference in Las Vegas in January, where she confirmed PMA will be a panelist.

“We deserve a seat at these tables,” Burns said.

She said consumers care more about the environment than ever before, and produce companies have a good story to share.

“We must show there is purpose to produce,” Burns said. “Consumers and your employees really care about the environment and sustainability.”

On a larger scale, she said fresh produce fits well into the changing lifestyle toward health for many Americans.

“Health is the new wealth,” she said, noting that healthy living has more social currency than before.

Burns also mentioned studies linking produce consumption to better mental health.

She didn’t mention that the Produce for Better Health Foundation supported and released research this summer that showed that “fruits and vegetables have unique, synergistic health-promoting properties that not only deliver basic nutrient needs, but also improve life expectancy and quality.”

And while Burns noted the rise in plant-based eating, she didn’t mention PBH’s Have A Plant program that promotes this as well.

There’s a bigger opportunity for the industry to pull in the same direction as we move toward the same goal.

Greg Johnson is the Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services.