By Steve Bradley
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a major shift in dining out and led many Americans to become more familiar with their kitchens than ever before. In fact, according to the 2020 “America Gets Cooking” report commissioned annually by Hunter, a food and beverage public relations and marketing communications consultant, more than half (54 percent) of
Americans report they are cooking more during the pandemic. 1
Thirty-nine percent said in a survey they are trying to eat healthier, with many saying they are becoming adventurous in the kitchen, trying new ingredients, brands, and products. 1 Salads and vegetables are two of the top five food items survey respondents say they are preparing more.
This presents a tremendous opportunity for grocers to meet this demand for preparing meals at home, as well as a growing desire to maintain a healthy diet during the pandemic to assist in fighting off the unwanted pounds associated with staying at home.
Fresh produce can play a key role in eating healthy but is not something that can easily be ordered through an online retailer like non-perishable goods. Shoppers like to hold and visually inspect produce for freshness, firmness, crispness, color and other desirable characteristics.
In short, fresh produce is a primary driver of traffic into grocery stores.
Additionally, consumers also want to know that what they are buying can be trusted. Salmonella, e-coli and other pathogens have unfortunately made their way into our fresh produce supply, causing massive recalls, illnesses and even deaths. Consumers want to know they are buying a safe product and – increasingly – want to know more about where it came from and how it was grown. Words like “organic,” “non-GMO” and “locally sourced,” have become part of everyday language for many Americans.
Leading indoor farming companies, like BrightFarms, offer hydroponically grown, “cleaner than organic” packaged salads that results in a higher-quality product that consumers can trust. Even produce labeled “organic” has likely been treated with chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. This also means the consumption of water, land and costs associated
with shipping produce are dramatically reduced. Additionally, locally grown means the quality is preserved through a much shorter shipping process, while also relying on less fuel due to shorter travels to market.
Controlled-environment agriculture ensures produce is not subjected to the whims of nature, such as drought, excessive rain, or other weather patterns.
In many ways, the BrightFarms’ model of bringing local produce around the U.S. into commercial stores has the potential to disrupt the multi-billion-dollar leafy greens industry. Few people could have likely imagined 10 years ago that hailing a taxicab would no longer be the “go to” for getting around town. Similarly, corporations, with the ability to look around corners and see the future, are re-imagining how consumers get high quality local produce onto dining room tables.
We need to feed a growing population in a more efficient way – not tied to any one certain geographic area. Investments in cleantech – focused on resource efficiency, resiliency, and adaptation. Local, sustainable, controlled environment produce consumers can trust gives us that opportunity. We believe it is possible to make the world a better place – building a better future for the next generation – while also growing business and creating jobs.
Steve Bradley serves as vice president of Cox Cleantech at Cox Enterprises, Inc. based in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Hunter. (2020). SPECIAL REPORT, America Gets Cooking: The Impact of COVID-19 on American’s Food Habits. [Food Study]. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/38DIhsR