MONTEREY, CA—The Roarin’ 20s continue in the trade show world with record attendance for the Organic Produce Summit July 13-14.
I spoke with the Organic Produce Network’s BB #:338018 Susan Canales at the close of the trade show of the two-day event, and she said attendance was close to 1,700 – a record.
“It beat all expectations,” she said, noting business continued up to and even after the 5 p.m. close.
This continues a streak of strong attendance for in-person events for the produce industry in 2022.
The summit featured buyer tours and a lively opening reception on July 13, and well-attended education sessions prior to the trade show on July 14.
Topics included controlled environment agriculture, branded produce versus private label, and consumer spending during these inflationary times.
The event’s keynote had last minute changes due to COVID, with Michael Schutt of Raley’s, Jeff Cady of Tops and Edmund LaMacchia of Whole Foods replacing Whole Foods’ Karen Christensen and Madhavi Reese in a discussion of the future of grocery with Walter Robb.
Here are some of the key trends that panelists addressed:
Food at home
Participants agreed that food at home will be a key driver for consumers, with food out of the home shifting to more of a special occasion.
Food at home goes beyond trading out of restaurants, too, Schutt said. Meal occasions like school foodservice and work lunches transitioned to the home.
“I think some of that will stay with us,” he said. “And so, we have the onus put on us to really make sure that we’re still engaging in that.”
Inflation and margin pressure
With inflation at a 40-year high, retailers are feeling the pressure to keep prices for consumers as low as possible, and that may mean eating a little margin.
“We’re just trying to stay customer-centric, to make sure that it’s easy and as affordable as possible,” Cady said. “We’re unable to pass on every penny of increase. We cannot do it. We’re not going to do it.”
Online grocery will continue to grow, though not quite as quickly as it did during the past two years. To be successful at it, though, retailers will have to be strategic, with a more curated selection for shoppers, LaMacchia said.
“The way we communicate with customers, the way we message to them has to be catered toward this channel, toward what they’re actually interested in,” he said. “That profiling, that loyalty program, that affinity is going to be sharpened up considerably. If we don’t do these things…the online marketplace could absolutely be commoditized and become a price marketplace and cost us sales.”