Farmers who keep their fingers on the pulse of food and Ag trends gain a major advantage. They anticipate what consumers want, and deliver products that fill consumers’ needs.
In 2016, falling food prices were bad for both grocers and farmers. Consumers demanded food labels to make informed purchasing decisions. Busy American families set goals to eat better, but struggled to put a healthy meal on the table between school and sports practice.
2017 offers solutions for consumers and opportunities for farmers. Consumers will pay premium prices for farm fresh food. Farmers will obtain organic and other label certifications to appeal to value-driven eaters. Direct distribution will get food from farm to table faster than ever before.
1Food prices are down, but consumers pay a premium for quality.
In 2016 average retail prices for a dozen eggs fell -5%, cheddar cheese lost -8.2%, and beef sirloin steak decreased -4.6%. Other losers: pork, citrus fruit, and milk.¹ Little price recovery is expected in 2017, however more consumers are skipping the supermarket to buy direct from farmers.
Farmers who engage in direct sales and consumers who buy direct win big in 2017; consumers get the highest quality food, and farmers get a premium price for their products. Expect to see more farmers’ markets, roadside stands, food buying clubs and other direct sales opportunities in 2017.
Americans have more food options than any time in history. My hometown grocery store offers 5 varieties of apples and 10 brands of coffee. In 2017 consumers’ values will dive their purchasing decisions. They are more likely to buy locally grown apples and sustainably produced coffee because they believe these options are better for the environment, economy and society.
Organic is the fastest growing sector of the food industry. There are 21,781 Certified Organic farms in America. The number of Certified Organic operations rose 12% in 2016.² The number of organic operations will continue to grow in 2017, as will the number of Certified Natural and Animal Welfare Approved farms. These and other label certifications help producers differentiate their products on the crowded store shelves, and stand out to value-driven eaters.
3Healthy fast food
Healthy fast food wins big in 2017. Consumers have become more health conscious in recent years, but also busier. When seeking fast food options, health conscious consumers choose restaurant chains like Chipotle and Panera over mainstay McDonalds.
Chipotle has a strong commitment to fresh food and sustainable sourcing. Panera’s website boasts that its fresh baked products, sandwiches and salads are fast, have clean ingredients, transparency and make a positive impact. These ideals appeal to both health conscious and value-driven eaters.
Anything farmers can do to get food from farm to table faster in 2017 is sure to be a success. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) appeals to busy families by delivering a weekly or biweekly share of farm products direct to consumers, sans trip to the supermarket.
Heat-and-eat healthy meals and side dishes have a place in CSA subscriptions. Frozen soup, stew and vegetables are popular. Precut and packaged fruits and veges ease the hassle of food prep. Hearty whole grain bread and baked goods round out the meal, and give families time to enjoy dinner together.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Average Retail Food and Energy Prices,” 2016.
- USDA. “USDA Reports Record Growth In U.S. Organic Producers,” April 4, 2016.