The food world is in flux.

How consumers view, understand and get food will change in the near future.

“As the (food) consumer changes and evolves, we need to be one step ahead,” said Phil Lempert, also known as the “Super Market Guru” and founder and editor of the website titled with his alias.

He was the luncheon keynote speaker at the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association’s annual convention. The California-based, popular food analyst and regular on network morning shows told the group that three-quarters of consumers know a healthy diet starts by selecting the right food either at home or at restaurants and are concerned about food.

What are they concerned about? Food additives, sodium, fat and sugars. But only 10 percent of consumers say their diets are as healthy as they could be.

“We have a responsibility to get the real facts out there about a healthy diet,” Lempert said, noting that fruits and vegetables are “in the bull’s-eye on that and we forget the magic of fruits and vegetables.”

Technology, technology, technology. “There are technologies out there making the purchasing of food different than ever before,” he said.

Online grocery shopping and to-home delivery services will continue to grow by near 10 percent annually through 2017.

The millennial generation is sparking this technology and food mix, he said, noting that taking pictures of food or prepared dishes and posting those food pics with comments to the web is not uncommon among the younger generation.

“The millennial generation, this generation loves food and loves food in a very different way,” Lempert said.

But the Baby Boomer generation controls 52 percent of all food purchases, he said, and they, and their doctors, are more concerned about diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease than the generation before them. And fresh fruit and vegetables are pretty much prescribed to help combat those conditions. And that is the story the industry needs to continue to tell.

Supermarkets to provide in-house food consultants

“Supermarkets have come a long way, adding retail and corporate dietitians and pharmacists who on a daily basis are helping shoppers plan healthier lifestyles,” Lempert said.

Speaking a bit futuristically, he envisioned a time when supermarkets will provide services or private consultants who sit down with a client’s or grocery shopper’s DNA map and customize or recommend recipes to combat health conditions or health preference for the shopper. Most of these products could be scheduled and delivered online.

Food challenges

Pew Research Center recently released a study on middle-class buying power. It shows that:

• 85 percent of middle-class adults say it’s more difficult now than a decade ago to maintain their standard of living.

• Middle-class incomes have shrunk over the past four decades. In the past decade alone, the middle-class median income fell 5 percent, but median wealth fell 28 percent.

• The middle class includes 51 percent of adults who bring in 45 percent of the nation’s income — down from 61 percent in 1971 who brought in 62 percent of income.

• 62 percent of middle-class Americans say they had to reduce household spending in the past year because money was tight, up from 53 percent who said the same in the recession year of 2008.

As a result, pricing will continue to be a sensitive issue for food retailers, Lempert says.

Lempert says consistent, skilled labor is a major problem for U.S. fruit and vegetable production, referring to a USDA study that shows as much $3 billion in California alone in loses due to  recent U.S. immigration reform efforts. But that’s not the only problem with labor, he says.

The Pew Hispanic Center studies show that net migration flows from Mexico to the U.S. have declined to near zero. A staggering U.S. economy, more-aggressive border enforcement and better economic conditions in Mexico are keeper Mexican workers in Mexico.  “Not only are there fewer workers here, but what would be their younger replacements are opting instead to stay and work in Mexico,” he says.

To find out more about Lempert and his views on food retail’s current and future trends, click here.

brad.haire@penton.com

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