The Tree Fruit Industry Attends Produce Marketing  Association Meeting in Atlanta

Keith Hu visits with a Chinese importer at PMA 2011.

The team at the Washington State Fruit Commission attended the annual Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit this past week.  This year, over 18,000 produce industry members from over 50 countries attended the exposition.  Likewise, over 20 industry packers and shippers had booths and staff members attending the show.  Overall, the tree fruit industry was well represented and came away with business, contacts and insights that should strengthen our grower position in the world marketplace.  ‘

For our staff at the WSFC, the PMA convention is a great place to interface with our own industry members, domestic retailers and merchandisers, international retailers and importers, and USDA FAS staff members who are responsible for overseeing the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry’s MAP portion of the farm bill.  This interaction with USDA is an added bonus for us, as their representatives are now annually attending the show and giving us time to meet regarding market strategy and funding opportunities.  Between apples, pears and cherries, the industry is receiving over $7 million dollars of MAP funds for foreign market development.  These marketing programs are implemented by the Washington Apple Commission, the Pear Bureau Northwest and our team here at the Washington State Fruit Commission.  These funds and programs go a long way in positively leveraging the tree fruit grower’s position on the world market.

Another positive benefit of the PMA show is the large variety of educational classes and speakers offered to attendees.  Each year we try to attend several classes that might range from “The Mind of Today’s Produce Consumer” to “Innovations in Consumer Packaging.”  Likewise, the PMA show always offers a great lineup of keynote speakers.  This year’s speaker list included Jim Donald who was the CEO of Starbucks and Pathmark Stores over the past decade.  We also attended a very informative talk by the founder of Travelocity and Kayak … Mr. Terry Jones.   Mr. Jones's talk was targeted on the new frontier of marketing opportunities through online and social media.  This hits very close to home, as we believe that we have a product in sweet cherries that because of their seasonality, unique taste and variety of uses in everyday food consumption … has great appeal to internet food editors, food bloggers and healthy families.   Mr. Jones shared a variety of statistics regarding consumers and online buying habits and decisions.  This was also very relevant to the cherry industry, as we are currently focusing on how we might bring younger consumers into the sweet cherry category.  Mr. Jones focused on the buying habits of generation Y and millennial consumers by sharing several revealing statistics: 

  • 81% of teens use the internet today – averaging 21 hours a week per consumer.
  • Over 98% of college students have purchased products online.
  • Of consumers over the age of 30 … only 50% have purchased products online.
  •  For consumers under the age of 30 … 98% use Google instead of the Yellow Pages when looking to review or purchase a product.
  • 73% of college students are online each and every day.

The possibilities in interfacing with the next generation of “tree fruit lovers” are endless … and the industry was united in harnessing that potential at PMA convention in Atlanta last week.