CERRITOS, Calif. — “Welcome to the world of the digital native,” Bryan Silbermann told members of the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Council at their April 25 luncheon. The president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association said 90 million people in the U.S. make up the first generation of consumers who are actually wired differently from their parents. “Do you speak their language?” he asked. The produce industry must familiarize itself with new technology as it tries to learn what’s important to consumers and how to communicate with them in a changing world. Consumers are looking for opportunities to connect with suppliers, he said. Suppliers can aid in that quest by converting labels into marketing tools such as quick-response codes that turn a sales pitch into “an extended, low-cost conversation with a consumer.” New technologies are reshaping farms, how they process and package items, and how they connect with consumers, Silbermann said. “Social media are an exciting opportunity to reach consumers,” he added. “Humans want to connect,” he said, and social media can level the playing field for everyone in the industry, no matter where they are in the supply chain. “In the U.S., 87 million women are active on social media every week, including 90% of moms with kids under the age of 18,” he said. “We’ve become more of a supply web than a chain, as new industry segments — new links — have emerged, redefining or replacing old ones,” Silbermann said. Silbermann reviewed other trends changing how produce is grown and marketed, including inner-city rooftop greenhouses and food trucks.
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