Fresh Connections: Mexico
drew more than 240 attendees, exhibitors and sponsors in Querétaro for networking and for educational local perspectives focusing on Mexico’s economy and identifying emerging business opportunities.
A flood of data is changing culture and the way we do business, PMA CEO Bryan Silbermann said in the opening session, “Think Global, Invest Local: Expansion Opportunities for 2015 & Beyond.” Technology is creating a new, do-it-yourself food culture, and 81 percent of smartphone users say the information they access improves the way they eat. The industry needs to meet consumers where they are – on their smartphones.
The fastest growth is in developing countries. Additionally, 70 percent of the global population will be living in cities by 2050. To better understand how the industry can respond, it is important to note four major trends driving fresh food growth: multiculturalism, transparency, convenience and health.
Mexico’s Growing Economy: Challenges and Opportunities
Economic growth in Mexico has been diminishing since the mid 1970’s, said Dr. Gerardo Esquivel, professor at El Colegio de Mexico as he gave an honest look at the Mexican economy. Between 1980 and 2012, per capita GDP grew just 25 percent, much less than in other developing countries.
In 2012, there was a change in outlook with a new presidential administration. A surge of reforms in the areas of the labor,education, telecommunication, financial and energy sectors raised expectations. However, while an economic growth of 3.9 percent was expected in 2013, Mexico saw only a 1.4 percent growth – the same as the percent growth of population. In 2014, there was an expected 4 percent growth of the Mexican economy, which again fell short at 2.1 percent.
This year, it is expected the economy will grow by 2.5 percent. So, while the economy is growing, it is still growing at a rate below what is needed for job opportunities and for graduating students entering the workforce.
Today’s Mexican Consumer: Meeting Demands for Healthy, Convenient Food
Globally, fresh foods comprise 30 to 60 percent of food purchases, said Jonna Parker, director of Nielsen Perishables Group USA. In Latin America, these percentages are the lowest, at 25 percent, as compared with 46 percent of food purchases in the European Union, 52 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, and 29 percent in the United States.
Mexican consumers purchase fresh foods frequently, and thus consumption outpaces the average for Latin America, said Parker. Latin Americans are consuming an average of two servings of fruits and vegetables per day, consuming the least compared to other regions, and Mexico is slightly outpacing Latin American average consumption.
Thirty-nine percent of Mexicans say a supermarket is their top choice for buying fruits and vegetables, and Mexican millennials shop in supermarkets primarily based on convenience and store cleanliness.
Food Safety: Positioning Yourself as a Trusted Source
It used to be that buyers would talk to suppliers about food safety, but now consumers get the final say, said Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer at PMA.
Consider our partner, the consumer. The greatest “outbreak” is obesity, and the consumer wants to know:
- Who is growing the product?
- What steps to ensure safety are being taken?
- What is in the food?
- How are you giving back to the community?
Consumers want transparency, and while 69 percent of consumers believe transparency is important, 45 percent do not believe the agriculture industry, as a whole, is transparent.
Fifty-three percent believe farms are owned by large corporations, while in fact 91 percent are considered small businesses. Twenty-six percent of consumers who visit a farm feel better about their food. How do you bring the farm to the consumer? People trust friends and family, though farmers are also considered a trusted source.
Risks are a part of nature, and every commodity is susceptible. If food is not safe, it is taken by the consumer as a personal betrayal.
Steps toward a sustainable food safety program include:
- Look at your business culture and assess the need for change. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility. Ask yourself: Where are we good, and where can we be better?
- Prepare for change. What training and education is needed? What are the messages you want to send?
- Plan and implement change. Take all necessary precautions. Identify where you want to be and how to get there.
- Sustain the change. Keep it up – there needs to be continual improvement.