Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 Farmers' Market Food Trends

by Carla Snyder, Extension Educator, Adams Co.

The top food trend of eating healthy is holding strong for 2014, except it's cleaned up a bit.  The 2014 food trend buzzword of the moment is clean eating, meaning the same as the monotonously repeated healthy eating trend of previous years.  It translates to eating fresh nutritious food that is good for your body.  Most of us know this can only be a good addition to any lifestyle.

What's great about clean eating is that it's not only healthy, but it's helpful.  When paired with a farmers' market of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program there can be a community aspect to eating clean.  This means a greater number of health conscious eaters at market stands this summer.
FOTS Market. Ali Frohman - photographer

According to Eating Well magazine, clean eating also means more vegetables, less sodium, limiting processed foods and choosing whole grains.  Where are customers looking to shop to accomplish all of these healthy clean eating tips in one place?  The farmers' market.  Keep it in mind this season as you're selling your fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats.  Why are your customers standing on the other side of the table from you?  It's because they're looking for a clean healthy product for their family, and they're choosing your farm to provide it.  They're trusting in you and can't wait to see what's in store for this season.

Keep customers engaged this season with clean snacks.  "In the past 24 hours, 92% of the adult population had a snack" (Hartman Group, April 2014).  Combine these two trends to be a hit with the market crowd this season!

Keep your core grocery shopping customers on their toes by wowing their taste buds with a little amuse bouche while they shop.  It may be just the thing that sets your market stand apart and keeps customers coming back for more.

It doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming to accomplish clean snacking.  Think small packaging changes and your could open yourself up to a new market, meaning new sales and happy customers for 2014.  A small change such as packaging berries in small cups rather than quart boxes or pureeing watermelon for on-the-spot refreshment can easily attract more moms, kids and thirsty customers to your stand.  Of course, it can't be all fun and games - be sure to check with your local health department for regulations regarding sampling and serving foods ready to eat.

If you're really looking for a way to impress customers, take the clean trend a step further and be on the cutting edge of new product development.  The latest to hit the streets is maple water, the sweet and shy cousin of coconut water, this new product promises to hydrate, be made from local agricultural ingredients and is a shoe-in as the 2014 farmers' market food trend hit.

Keep up to date on food trends and more as they come out by following the Penn State Extension Ag Entrepreneurship Team on Facebook.  And as I raise a glass of maple water "cheers" to a clean and prosperous 2014 market season!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Emerging Food Trends--Peruvian Items Are On The Rise

If you're involved in the ethnic foods industry (whether that's growing, selling, education, or just plain consuming), I suggest joining the Ethnic Greens and Herbs Workshop Facebook group.  This group was formed to disseminate helpful research information and news regarding the ethnic produce industry to growers, wholesalers, retailers, Extension personnel, researchers, and association representatives.  

Fellow blogger Kathy Kelley recently posted a link to the article "From Aji peppers, amaranth and pichuberries to purple corn and quinoa, Peruvian cuisine is hot, says Packaged Facts".  In the article, results from the 'What's Hot in 2014' survey of American Culinary Federation chefs shows that 57% of respondents "voted Peruvian cuisine the top trend in the ethnic cuisines and flavors category".  The article also reports that "the UN declared 2013 the 'International Year of Quinoa' (a Peruvian staple) and the Culinary Institute of America has declared 2014 to be the year of Peruvian cuisine".

So what kind of foods are popular with Peruvians?

  • Purple corn- most commonly used to make chicha morada (a drink) and mazamorra (a pudding). 
    Purple corn being sold at a farm market. Photo taken by Kathy Kelley on a 2013 trip to South America.
  • Aji peppers- a species of chili pepper.  Aji Amarillo, Aji Panca, Aji Rocoto, Aji Mirasol, and Aji Limo are the most commonly used varieties of Aji peppers in Peruvian cooking.
    Aji panca pepper.  Photo from
  • Amaranth- a grain with a high nutrition value; the seeds are consumed whole toasted or milled into flour. 
    Amaranth harvest.  Photo from
  • Pichuberry- a polyphenol-rich fruit.
    Pichuberry. Photo from
  • Pisco- a grape brandy produced in Peru and Chile.
    Two different brands of Pisco.  Photo from

Why is this trend important to you, the food producer?  Hispanic and Latino populations in the United States are seeing dramatic increases.  According to the 2010 Census, 16% of the US population were of Hispanic or Latino origin.  (The US Census Bureau defines "Hispanic or Latino" as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.)  The Census also shows that between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43%, which was four times the growth in the total population.  

With this tremendous growth, Hispanic and Latino customers are not to be ignored.  Are you looking to expand your product line and/or market to a new target audience?  This might be your answer, but as always, do your research to find out if you should start selling any new product or marketing to a new audience.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Seem to Have Lost a Customer Someplace!

by John Berry, Extension Educator, Lehigh Co.

How much is one customer worth?  How much does it cost the business to lose one customer?  More than you want to know, and probably more than you can measure in real dollars.

Most people only measure the dollar loss of a sale, or how much revenue was lost for the year.  Big mistake.  For openers, multiply that times 20 years.  Losing a customer once could mean they never shop with you again.  And don't even begin to count the people the could have recommended.

The loss of a customer is more than the
dollar amount on one sale.
Then the real losses begin to pile up.  Besides telling everyone in the immediate vicinity, they will tell all their office mates, everyone at the next association meeting, everyone at the next annual trade show and convention, and - if you do a real bad job of recovery or service - report it to people in local media.

The real cost of a lost customer is the different between "cost of lost" and "cost to fix."  Now measure that against the cost of servicing, fixing, discounting or replacing the situation, defect or problem when you first learned of it.  Seems like a pittance compared to the paragraphs above.

The painful part comes when you ask yourself "How did this happen?" "Could I have prevented this from happening?" and "How can I prevent this from occurring again?"

If you have ever lost a customer you aren't alone.  It's not a one person battle.  It's not a one-idea solution.  You need specific facts before any ideas on how to minimize the issues can be formulated.  Start by switching places with the customer.  Try to use your stuff in their environment.  Try to call yourself from their office.  Wear their shoes, and walk around in them for awhile.  Ask your customer brutal questions.  The ones you don't want to hear the answers to.

Get closer to the customer's "real" life.  Meals and ball games can reveal relevant truths that arms length relationships won't uncover.  How do you do this with your existing budget?  You can't.  You must have a "win back" budget.  Funds that are earmarked to fix problems, create resolve, and build goodwill.

When you get back in - thank the customer for dumping you.  Tell them that without the loss of their business, this innovative solution would never have been possible, and you are willing to offer some (major?) concessions for a re-try at the business using these changes.  Notice we have not apologized or groveled.  Customers are less interested in apology than they are in great ideas, recoverable actions, and solutions to their problem.

And finally, get real.  Know the difference between a problem and a symptom.  Losing customers is a symptom.  Poor service, poor product, late delivery, or back-orders are problems.  Remember, it never costs as much to fix the problem as it does to not fix the problem.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Choosing Social Media Tools for Your Business

by Sarah Cornelisse, Sr. Extension Associate, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education

"What social media should I use for my business?"  This is an often-asked question, and unfortunately, not one that is easily answered by an outsider.  The appropriate social media tool(s) for your individual business will depend on a number of factors, several of which I discuss below.

What are your goals?  Any time you implement the use of a tool, you should have an identified goal that the tool's use will help you in reaching.  The same goes for social media tools.  It is easy to post lots of content to one or more platforms without accomplishing anything.  Keep in mind also, that it is entirely feasible to identify the use of more than one social media tool to accomplish one or more goals, such as using both Facebook and YouTube to share videos of recipe preparations.

Who do you want to connect with?  Are you looking to connect with consumer, businesses, colleagues, women, techies, etc.?  Different tools attract different types of users.  You'll want to research the demographics of the users for the different social media tools you're considering.  For instance, women are the primary users of Pinterest, while connecting with industry peers may call for using Linkedin.

Where are your competitors?  Some degree of weight should be placed on what social media tools your competitors are using.  What platforms are your direct competitors most active on?  If enough of your direct competitors, or businesses similar to yours, are active on a particular platform, it's likely that is where you should be as well. 

What type of content do you want to share?  Typically, the type of business you operate and the products/services you sell, dictate the type of content, but not always.  Different social media platforms lend themselves better to different types of content.  Photos and recipes are great fodder for Pinterest.  Facebook handles a variety of content types, but photos and video are more likely to be shown in the newsfeed of followers.  To tell stories, educate, or discuss industry related information, blogs are likely preferable.

How do you want to engage?  You may have a preference for how you would like to engage with consumers and followers.  If you enjoy ongoing conversations, can be "connected" a great deal of the time, and are not concerned with followers finding past posts, you may prefer using Twitter. 

Track analytics.  If you're using more than one social media tool, study the analytics that each provides on your activity.  You may find that your followers are conversing with you, sharing your content, etc. more often on one platform than on another.  If that's the case, you'll want to focus your efforts more on the tool that is generating this "return."

Answering these questions should lead you to identify the most appropriate social media platform(s) for your business.  Remember, you don't need to be everywhere.  It's fine to start out with just one social media tool.  The trick is to start with the right one.