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    Consumer Research in 2006 Offers Clues for '07 Growth: PMA

    NEWARK, Del. - A year-end review of consumer surveys conducted during 2006 by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) pointed to opportunities for selling more produce in 2007, among them offering broader selections and taking action to make produce more safe and restore consumer confidence in fresh products

    NEWARK, Del. - A year-end review of consumer surveys conducted during 2006 by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) pointed to opportunities for selling more produce in 2007, among them offering broader selections and taking action to make produce more safe and restore consumer confidence in fresh products

    "Our end customers are telling us we can increase sales by offering a broader selection of tastier, higher-quality produce," said PMA president Bryan Silbermann. "Meanwhile, we simply must address potential concerns about produce, such as food safety, for our customers, regulators and legislators." In late October, PMA's board of directors approved spending at least $1 million in new funding on programs to ensure consumers' continued confidence in the safety of produce.

    The trade association conducted eight surveys last year in which consumers were polled on a range of topics, including the importance of produce to retail store and restaurant choices, the new market opportunity presented by convenience stores, fresh-cut and leafy green food safety, what motivates parents to purchase more produce, and "flexitarians."

    "Each report offers something of value to grow product sales and together they draw a clear, focused picture of what consumers think about produce," said Silbermann.

    "The messages to our industry are clear: Those suppliers, retailers and foodservice operators who capitalize on the importance that consumers place on produce have everything to gain," he added, noting that among the many food groups, only produce offers the flavor, eye and nutritional appeal.

    Silbermann encouraged the industry to focus on expanding sales of existing customers first. "Our data show that even vegetarians' and flexitarians' produce repertoire is limited, a reality that probably applies to most produce consumers too," he said.

    Other opportunities include meeting consumers' demands for flexibility of what, how and where they buy, whether they want the convenience of fresh-cut produce and take-home meals or prefer whole produce, or enjoy year-round variety or prefer to buy seasonally and locally.

    Other major messages in the 2006 research included:
    -Produce drives supermarket choice and restaurant choice for large numbers of consumers.
    -Produce is gaining prominence on the plate.
    -Taste rules, along with quality, selection and convenience.
    -Fresh cut continues to gain in popularity.
    -Food safety is cause for concern.
    -Organic attitudes are grounded.
    -Suppliers should not ignore the opportunites presented by the c-store channel.

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