ORLANDO, Fla. — Big changes in health care will provide the fresh produce industry with huge opportunities in coming years, according to the Oct. 18 breakfast keynote speaker at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010.

Thanks to pioneering work in genetics, health care will begin focusing more attention on and preventive care, as doctors will be able to forecast patients’ potential health problems years ahead of time, said Jim Carroll, a trends expert and president of Toronto, Ontario-based JA Carroll Consulting.

That trend is good news for the produce industry, said Carroll, who has consulted for Microsoft, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Nestle and other top companies.

“Your opportunities only grow as health care focuses more on wellness,” he said.

Having a forward-looking focus on trends, and reacting quickly to them, is key in today’s rapidly changing food industry, Carroll said.

For example, new foods that get their start at high- end restaurants make their way to restaurant chains and grocery stores much more quickly than they used to.

“In food, faster is the new fast,” he said. “You need to keep your innovation pipeline full.”

Carroll also advised produce industry members to keep an eye on a trend toward fewer items in supermarkets. With consumers busier than ever, most don’t have time to adequately process their choices at retail.

“Twenty-two minutes to view 30,000 grocery items is not enough time,” he said, citing the length of the average trip to the supermarket.

Digital coupons are another trend produce companies would be wise to tap into, Carroll said. In coming years, more and more consumers will download coupons from their smart phone while they’re shopping, he said.

Carroll’s advice to all companies looking to innovate is to “think big, start small and scale fast.”