By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, Food Marketing Institute
Fresh Foods Image

When you’re in the kitchen trying to grow your culinary skills, you want to make sure you’re prepared with the right ingredients that will set you up for success. In a similar way, wholesalers and retailers spent 2016 cultivating their fresh foods community to deliver a prosperous 2017. Thanks to our members, the fresh foods community experienced tremendous growth this year; we introduced a new council, and a handful of new research and goals.

FMI formed the Fresh Foods Leadership Council (FFLC)

In addition to the Fresh Executive Committee (FEC), which includes 22 retailers and wholesalers, the newly formed FFLC brings together various associations, such as, International Dairy Deli Bakery Association, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh, North America Meat Institute, Pork Board, Chicken Council, and many leading suppliers, for example, Smithfield, ReadyPac, Johnsonville, Mastronardi Produce, Trident Seafood, AquaStar. The Committee is an opportunity to create synergy between wholesalers and retailers when discussing supply chain issues that affect the greater operations of food retail. In January, the group launched a new webinar series that would provide grocers with an easy to digest outline of recent findings of  the Top Trends for Fresh. The series focused on five key trends in fresh:

FSMA regulations also captivated the fresh foods community in 2016, so in preparation, the FFLC received briefings on their 2017 implementation. Finally, in July the FFLC reconvened at FMI headquarters to investigate the ability to provide food retailers with a certification in Fresh Retail Training. This project is still in its preliminary status, but the opportunity exists to create training for retail employees in fresh departments with an emphasis on food safety, cold chain, and product knowledge. This is a project we’re excited to work toward in 2017.

The “Power of” 2016

This year, the fresh foods community and research went hand-in-hand. We released five reports that combined consumer insights with data to tell the story of how these areas of the store are changing in consumer’s minds:

Seafood remains a growing category for the grocery business

Consumers and seafood are still wading murky waters when it comes to knowledge and preparation at the retail level. As part of FMI’s proactive efforts to develop tools and resources for our industry, the Seafood Strategy Committee (SCC) created the 2016-2017 FMI Seafood Calendar, which aims to help retailers promote and educate consumers on the consumption of seafood through marketing and communication plans each month.

A large focus of 2016 was addressing both human welfare and seafood sustainability issues. During the Boston Seafood Expo in March, the SCC and the Seafood Strategy Advisory Council (SSAC) met with Thailand’s ambassador to the U.S. and a panel of high ranking government officials to proactively discuss illegality in seafood trade.

Following the meeting, members of the SCC established the need to produce a study identifying the key reasons for seafood fraud and best practices to help prevent fraud in the future. At the end of the survey, tentatively slated for 2017, the data will be collated into a white paper that will be a great tool to educate seafood category managers and buyers.

What’s ahead for Fresh Food?

With so much growth leading into 2017, it's imperative we begin to look at all the ingredients that will make up our recipe for future success. The Fresh Foods Leadership Council (FFLC) determined the need to host a “Top to Top” event in 2018 that will solely focus on fresh foods. The event will connect leaders of fresh suppliers, retailers, and wholesalers with the leaders of fresh companies and provide content on the Future of Fresh.