By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI

Fresh foods heart

I'm usually quite consistent in how I consider food industry trends and opportunities.

Give me a topic and I will likely think, how does it impact the fresh foods side? This may not be surprising given that I lead FMI's fresh foods industry community.

But here's the thing: My focus on the fresh foods lens is increasingly the focus for the food industry as a whole. Fresh is leading everyone's differentiation strategies so leaders want to keep this sector robust. Many key industry opportunities play out uniquely in fresh. At the 2024 FreshForward Conference in August, FMI will spotlight three very important opportunities:

  • Technology and AI
  • Sustainability and Packaging
  • Emerging Consumer Trends

Each opportunity is front and center for fresh foods right now. Registration for the conference just opened and I'm excited to spotlight each of these topics and their impacts on fresh.

Tech and AI

Emerging technology is a key enabler for fresh foods success — both on the customer experience and operations sides. FMI's recent Midwinter Executive Conference showcased how the industry needs to navigate emerging technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), with boldness and responsibility. This topic should generate important conversations on the fresh side. Which are the most robust technologies to prioritize now for this part of the industry? What is the time frame for success? How can emerging technology enable fresh to become even more of a differentiator?

Sustainability With a Focus on Packaging and Food Waste

Reducing food and packaging waste has become a bigger priority for consumers and food industry companies — for reasons ranging from financial to environmental. Consider that nearly half of shoppers responding to FMI's 2023 Power of Produce survey expressed concern about the environmental impact of fresh produce packaging. How can the fresh industry react with promising strategies to tackle this complex challenge? How can we achieve more sustainable fresh packaging without increasing shrink? What are the latest packaging advances to help make progress?

Emerging Consumer Trends

Fresh foods shoppers are exhibiting changing perceptions about value, nutrition, health, convenience, transparency and other topics. I find it interesting how the notion of value is evolving. FMI's U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2023 research points to a number of considerations that have become increasingly important in how shoppers think about value. These include quality, relevance, experience and convenience. Shopper perspectives are changing in real-time, and these attitudes are relayed through social media, shopping decisions and in many other ways. What are the latest consumer perspectives and how can fresh food leaders adjust to the new needs? How can companies relay their stories about fresh to make sure they get buy-in from customers?

Taking Action-Oriented Approaches

These topics will be showcased at FreshForward 2024, set for August 5-7 at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, Calif. FreshForward is FMI's annual gathering of senior-level retailers and suppliers in the fresh sector. It is focused on how to move the fresh industry forward and features educational presentations, breakout groups for attendees to identify action steps for success and lots of opportunities for networking. A FreshForward Action Guide is published after the conference so attendees have all the recommendations on how the industry can make progress. Deloitte is our crucial partner that helps bring resources, thought leadership and speakers for the event.

Speaking of action steps, I hope you'll take the opportunity to register now for FreshForward. We hope to see you there as we address some of the biggest topics facing fresh foods leaders and collaborate on solutions.

Register for FreshForward