Where Fruit & Vegetable Processors Can Meet 2021 Food Consumer Demand
In a previous blog post, we summarized what the food industry can expect regarding 2021 consumer trends and those that made the list were transparency throughout the supply chain, sustainability, a focus on health with emphasis placed on immunity-boosting foods, as well as a rise in plant-based diets. Reiterating these expected trends, Food Insight reported that the pandemic has caused many Americans to seek foods for their health benefits with a specific emphasis on those to strengthen their immune system while additionally reporting that the expected 2020 trends of sustainability and plant-based eating took a backseat to COVID-19 but are predicted to reemerge in 2021. Business Wire echoed that transparency will be key in 2021, stating, “Consumers now expect food labels to provide greater transparency around the entire product life cycle. This is helping drive the demand for locally sourced products as consumers seek greater clarity on where the ingredients in food and beverages come from.” With these consumer priorities in mind, where can you meet the demand as a Fruit & Vegetable Processor? Keep reading to learn more.
Today’s fruits and vegetables consumer “is more conscious of environmental sustainability and socio-economic issues” and relies on factors such as the type of product, its qualitative aspects, packaging and distribution channel to inform their decision. As such, to meet consumer demand and differentiate, today’s fruit and vegetable processor must consider the use of natural resources and minimize the impact of farming on the environment and local community while also considering “how and where the produce is grown, the characteristics and socio‐economic and environmental impact of processing, the health benefits of the product, its distribution channel, and finally waste recycling and management.” When considering the farming practices of the fruit and vegetables you process, some suggest that sustainable fruit and vegetable production should entail minimal soil disruption, cover cropping, optimized plant nutrition, optimized plant genetics, optimized pest management, labor efficiencies, the logical use of protected culture, and a logical balance of fresh, frozen and canned output. Moreover, because fruit and vegetable by-products are the most abundant food waste, with “the amount of residue with potential utilization after processing has been estimated in millions of tons every year,” it’s important to also consider how to waste less and use more as a fruit and vegetable processor – one such strategy being focused on using by-products for food packaging materials.
Immunity-Focused Health Concerns
When practiced sustainably, fruit and vegetable production can be a “source of healthy food with relatively limited environmental impact.” And with consumers today evermore concerned about their immune health, this is good news for fruit and vegetable processors. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO), “recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer,” indicating that fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, which is known to play a role in immune system health. Additionally, “of all foods, Americans fall short most regularly in their fruit and vegetable consumption, which could have a compromising effect on the immune system.” Therefore, promoting the health benefits of the fruits and vegetables you process can help consumers get healthier while also improving the health of your bottom line.
Also beneficial for fruit and vegetable processors is the returned trend of plant-based diets. Promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet and the cited support can provide further benefits for your bottom line. For instance, Dietician Jean LaMantina suggests choosing real food over quick food, meaning “choosing lentils and beans, over protein shakes. Raw nuts over energy bars. Fruits over cookies.” Additionally, compounding on the health concerns for consumers, promoting a plant-based diet can support two concerns at once as according to One Green Planet “by choosing a diet that is primarily based around plant-based whole foods, you are also inadvertently cutting down or avoiding processed foods altogether. These pre-packaged, hydrogenated oil-rich, and sugar-filled items have been linked to an increased risk of a variety of health conditions and issues including diabetes, metabolic disorders, heart disease, and even cancer.”
Traceability is a current trend across the food manufacturing industry but especially so in the world of fruits and vegetables. According to the United Nations, 2021 is The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and with that title comes “an overture to boost safe, healthy, and nutritious food production through the active adoption of technology such as traceability and cut down food wastage due to food spoilage, theft or any other reason.” Additionally, due to COVID-19, consumers’ focus on safety and hygiene has significantly increased and they’ve proven that they want to know more than just the selling price and ingredients, they want to know “what they are buying and consuming and the real ‘best before date’” and they also want to “be sure about the companies and want to trust them when it comes to product safety and purity.” All of these concerns and demands by consumers support traceability and transparency by fruit and vegetable processors as “traceability offers consumers the ability to track back products to the farm it was harvested, the farmer who grew it, how it was grown and much more.” Providing traceability and supporting transparency translates to building trust and according to Food Processing “trust is the new currency of brand loyalty, and the path to trust is transparency.” In order to be transparent, your product must be traceable. With NorthScope, you can track your product, record quality test results, apply lot certifications, and more – all of which can be reported on – allowing you to partake in full transparency for your customers.