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Food Exporters Urged to Check Compliance with FSMA Requirements

Continuing concerns over food safety and the upcoming FSMA legislation, as well as technology, own-label goods and freshly prepared foods were the four themes that dominated proceedings at this year's FMIConnect event in Chicago.

Photo: FMIConnect: North America’s largest food retail expo.
FMIConnect: North America's largest food retail expo.
Photo: FMIConnect: North America’s largest food retail expo.
FMIConnect: North America's largest food retail expo.

Four issues in particular seemed to pre-occupy exhibitors at this year's FMIConnect event, North America's largest food retail expo. As well as the expected issues of food safety and the importance of providing freshly prepared foods, there was also an emphasis on both technology and the growing importance of own-label brands.

Food Safety

According to many exhibitors, American consumers are now more knowledgeable than ever when it comes to food safety and their own role in preventing food-related illnesses. While most consumers assume personal liability when purchasing products, they have an expectation that both the retail food industry and government have a responsibility to ensure food safety.

In line with this, a great deal of discussion at this year's FMIConnect centred on compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). For the first time, this newly introduced legislation allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to hold imported foods to the same standards as domestically produced items.

Overall, while supermarkets remain the most trusted outlets when it comes to meat and poultry safety, consumers still remain concerned with regard to overall levels of food hygiene. According to recent industry reports, 75% of consumers worry about the bacterial contamination of foods, while 59% of consumers voiced particular concern with regard to foodstuffs sourced from China.

Freshly-prepared Foods

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the ongoing concerns over food safety, consumers are increasingly looking to supermarkets as a source of freshly-prepared food. As a result, from hand-made deli sandwiches to oven-fired pizzas to steaks and sushi, supermarkets are increasingly under pressure to offer restaurant-quality meals at equivalent or better prices.

Technology

Technology was seen as having a dual impact on the food retail sector. On one hand, there are the increasingly sophisticated items now in use at many supermarkets – such as Georgia-based NCR's self-checkout system – while, on the other hand there is the way that digital technology is impacting on consumer behaviour.

Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, consumers now expect 24/7 customer service, including the facility to compare prices across stores and find relevant promotions while in-store. Overall, it was seen that Millennials are the most likely group to be influenced by social media and digital promotion when it comes to purchase decisions.

Own-label

Once considered simply as generic knockoffs, own-label/store brands have become increasingly accepted by consumers. As a sign of this, in 2014 the dollar value of private labels in the US increased 2.5% to US$115 billion. As a result many of the more savvy supermarkets now offer foods under their own label, with their quality frequently equalling or exceeding that of branded products.

Overall, Hong Kong exporters are advised to pay close attention to these four trends. In particular, companies should consider options within the own-label sector, while also ensuring all of their products are FSMA-compliant.

Photo: Food fears: Some 59% of US consumers don’t trust China-based food producers.
Food fears: Some 59% of US consumers don't trust China-based food producers.
Photo: Food fears: Some 59% of US consumers don’t trust China-based food producers.
Food fears: Some 59% of US consumers don't trust China-based food producers.

FMIConnect is organised annually by the Food Marketing Institute of America. This year the event was held from 21-23 June at McCormick Place in Chicago. It featured 500 exhibitors from more than 60 countries and attracted 12,000 attendees.

Bridget Lee, Chicago Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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