Risks spelt out for fresh produce sector

Economic volatility and pressure on consumer spending pose threats for fresh-produce growers.

Fresh produce

The fresh produce sector is particularly at risk from continuing economic volatility and pressure on consumer spending, the Leafy Salads Association conference heard last week.

James Walton, chief economist at market analyst IGD, said: "Most businesses are predicated on the expectation that demand will continue at similar levels, but the amount of food consumed in Europe is going down.

"Shoppers are trying to manage or reduce grocery shopping, with the less well-off even missing meals. Fresh produce is more at risk here because it doesn't keep. The volume sold is now trending downwards."

Retailers, meanwhile, "are looking for ways to grab and hold onto shoppers", he said, having expanded their floor space before the downturn.

"Economic stress is forcing the rate of change and evolution. Convenience stores and online will show continued growth, though big stores will still be where the battles are lost and won." Recent initiatives in retailers' fresh produce marketing are a key part of this, he added.

Leafy salad market - Frontrunners strive to attain the Holy Grail

The UK, together with the USA and Australia, is a frontrunner in developing the leafy salad market, Rijk Zwaan flavour and convenience manager Bauke van Lenteren told the event.

But other parts of the world are also innovating. East Asia is seeing a rise in enclosed "plant factories" even at restaurants in which they are served.

Meanwhile, "living lettuces" sold with roots attached "work in some countries and not in others". But preventing reddening or browning of cut leaves remains "the Holy Grail of the industry", she added.

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