Social Responsibility Moves Momentum For Fresh Produce

European Market

At the bio-market at Rue de Tanneur in Brussels‭, ‬Belgium‭, ‬around noon on a Saturday‭, ‬there is a long line in front of the building‭. ‬People of all ages‭, ‬social ranks and origins are gathering together to gain access to the world of bio-vegetables‭, ‬farmers’‭ ‬goods and products exclusively produced with organic ingredients‭. ‬The reason behind the crowd is very simple‭: ‬the market hall is not big enough anymore to serve people’s demand for authentic grown fruit and vegetables‭.

But that’s not the only reason‭. ‬They are also feeling good about their decision to buy the products‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬knowing they support the local economy and that the products are in line with their environmental and social concerns in addition to the promise sold with it‭. ‬The‭ ‬visual appearance of unpacked products‭, ‬the mind-set of waste-avoidance by bringing your own jute bag‭ (‬or canvas tote‭), ‬the usage of refillable glass jars and the transparency of where the product is coming from‭. ‬All of this sells a feeling of authenticity‭ ‬and trust‭.

Consumer Fragmentation‭‬ And Purchasing Behaviour

If you look into relevant studies on global consumer trends‭, ‬one can observe a growing fragmentation among consumers‭. ‬Several outward changes‭, ‬such as the digital revolution‭, ‬substantially influence our shopping behaviour‭.

First‭, ‬more choice‭, ‬less time is influencing customers’‭ ‬decisions on where‭, ‬when and how to buy‭. ‬The opportunities of purchasing locations seem endless‭. ‬From online-delivery‭, ‬convenience shops to bio-markets and mobile shopping‭.

Second‭, ‬consumer groups have no streamlined profile anymore‭. ‬In particular‭, ‬so-called‭ ‬“silver agers”‭ (‬those consumers typically defined as people older than 50‭) ‬do not act as society expects them to‭. ‬They are active‭, ‬wealthy‭, ‬and open-minded with an affinity to new technology‭. ‬Traditional family models are cross-generationally disrupted‭. ‬Singles do earn‭ ‬and spend more‭, ‬and according to various Global Consumer Trend studies for 2016‭, ‬the borders of gender are becoming increasingly‭ ‬blurred‭.‬

Third‭, ‬there is an emerging search to counter the fast-paced‭, ‬technology-shaped daily life we are currently experiencing‭. ‬The happy and easy consumption-oriented 90s and early‭ 2000s are replaced by an orientation toward meaningfulness of action‭. ‬Activism is becoming a fashion‭, ‬and news from the Internet is‭ ‬involved‭. ‬This trend comes in the form of the sharing-economy‭, ‬the rise of civil engagement on all societal matters‭, ‬awakening interest for relationships between our way of living and our environment‭, ‬which includes climate change‭.‬

The food shelf is the most direct and democratic power a customer could attain‭. ‬What unites all of those trends is that with the‭ ‬increasing availability of information‭, ‬people are developing a new sense of awareness for themselves and their actions‭. ‬People‭ ‬want to make a change‭. ‬Food is one of the most direct‭, ‬convenient and effective ways of doing this‭.

They can decide where they buy their product‭, ‬and whether or not the place of purchase fits into their set of values‭. ‬They can decide what they buy‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬a more far-reaching decision than it has been before‭. ‬Consumers consider whether the product is healthy and delivers added value with regard to the ecological footprint and the production conditions‭. ‬With growing availability of information about health‭, ‬social and local conditions‭, ‬producers cannot dazzle the client anymore with only packaging‭. ‬Fun and entertainment must be replaced with authenticity and honesty‭.

The‭ ‬‘More’‭ ‬Factor

This might be the momentum needed for the European fruit and vegetable industry as well as imports into Europe‭, ‬which have all suffered by a decline of consumption by more than 10‭ ‬percent during the past 10‭ ‬years‭. ‬There is no better answer to consumers’‭ ‬wish than the consumption of fruit and vegetables‭. ‬It is the product that delivers the most additional value to the consumers‭. ‬Doing something good to yourself and others could not be easier‭.‬

What can the sector learn from the long line in front of the bio-market in Brussels‭? ‬What can it learn from the more than 40‭ ‬million Google entries about mindfulness‭? ‬And what can we learn from the growing rate of zero-waste-blogs popping up online‭? ‬The fruit and vegetable industry has now the chance to empower its consumers‭; ‬to make them simultaneously feel responsible and aware about the multiple assets of fruit and vegetable with regard to health‭, ‬societal and environmental benefits‭.

The industry has a story worth telling‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬but it must be honest and authentic‭. ‬It is not the time for fancy promotion claims anymore‭. ‬It is the moment to rethink the way of selling and toward a paradigm shift in the marketing toward the‭ ‬“more”‭: ‬more value‭, ‬more communication‭, ‬and more mindfulness‭.‬

Freshfel Europe is the European fruit and vegetable association and represents more than 200‭ ‬European and global members from the whole supply chain‭. ‬Nelli Hajdu is responsible for international trade policy and plant health‭, ‬but also for the communicational work at Freshfel‭.‬