Nov 2, 2023
Rabobank reports on global produce trends

The fresh produce industry faces many challenges across the globe, including weather extremes, geopolitical tensions and a decreasing and more expensive workforce throughout the supply chain.

IFPA Global Produce & Floral ShowFortunately, with numerous technological innovations and new products being developed, the future remains full of opportunities for the fresh produce industry, according to a new report from Rabobank.

Rabobank released the report following the International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Global Produce and Floral Show. Rabobank sent a delegation to the show, which noted trends in the industry through the report.

Greenhouse tomatoes — expo floor stars

Umami-SunsetGreenhouse-grown produce was prominently present at the IFPA show. Mexican, U.S. and Canadian companies, many of them with facilities or suppliers in all three countries, showed various new varieties, snack-size vegetables and packaging. North America’s largest greenhouse player, Mastronardi Produce, which markets under the Sunset brand, showcased “Umami Bomb” tomatoes in Japanese-inspired packaging. Windset Farms showed sweet snack tomatoes called “Yum Yums” in red and pink candy-style packaging. Nature Fresh featured its dark-brown “Yoom” tomatoes with star-shaped crowns. Prepared packaged salads were also present in all shapes, sizes and packaging, including various high-tech indoor-farmed leafy greens that are currently facing a reckoning.

Automation gains steam

In the long term, it does seem that leafy green production and processing will also be more automated, despite the current challenges for high-tech grown greens, according to Rabobank. Just like many other fruit and vegetable industries, the costs and availability of labor, as well as more limited water availability and/or more stringent sustainability requirements, are challenging. At the same time, consumers demand an ever-higher quality. Automation can be a solution, and the show included many demonstrations. Automation solutions ranged from robotic harvesters for strawberries and tomatoes, to extremely advanced sorting equipment for fruits, to technologies for assisting pollination in avocado, blueberry and almond production.

According to some industry sources, the payback period for some robotic packaging or sorting equipment is currently less than one year. Various food waste solutions were showcased at the expo, including fruit coatings to increase shelf life and an in-retail scanner to determine the ripeness of avocados, preventing consumers from squeezing the fruit until it is unsellable.

Nuts at your convenience

With California at the center of global almond and pistachio production, tree nuts were displayed at many booths at the IFPA show. Demand no longer outpaces supply, and suppliers are putting more effort into marketing almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Many products feature new flavors, and are available in various pack sizes. Show attendees were bombarded with flavored pistachios, from very sweet to extremely spicy. Unshelled pistachios were prominent, as the convenience trend seems to be unstoppable, even in a year with strong economic headwinds.

Exotic species are mushrooming

In the mushroom space, suppliers are also seeking differentiation. Mushroom suppliers showed broad assortments of exotic mushrooms at the show, both conventionally and organically grown. Different sizes, colors and packages of oyster mushrooms, shiitake, enoki-take and maitake were on display. According to the USDA, the sales value of commercially-grown specialty mushrooms went up 3% in the most recent marketing year.

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