Panel on Consumer Perceptions of Food

This week at the Nebraska Farm Bureau Legislative Conference in Lincoln, a panel consisting of Kelli Kennel, Hy-Vee dietician; Marty Jarvis, director of marketing for B&R Stores; and Judy Gillard or “Judy a la carte”, chef, convened to discuss consumer perceptions of food.

Kennel kicked off the panel by sharing recent trends she’s witnessed at Hy-Vee stores including consumers leaning toward more natural foods (e.g. no antibiotics; minimally processed; shorter ingredients list), a heightened interest and concern for food safety, diets that cater to consumers with food allergies and intolerances and specialized diets. Kennel also says today’s consumer responds well to hearing the farm to fork story. They want to know where their food comes from, they want it local, fresh and to buy from farmers markets.

And in today’s busy environment, consumers want food choices to be easy, they want meal and recipe ideas, the simpler the better, and in less than 30 minutes. “But then you can’t forget the other end of the spectrum which we call ‘foodies’. They want to know all the details about nutrition and ask many questions about where their food comes from.” Listen more here.

Judy a la carte, author of 10 cookbooks with the theme “Fast and Fabulous” told the group that consumers  hear bad stories about food, but that’s just one bad out of so many fantastic farmers. Judy recently had the opportunity to visit Nebraska farms on the A-FAN tour and was a firsthand witness to the big, yet family-owned farms that care and have passion for their land and animals just like small farmers.

“Trends are heading back to eating healthier to live longer but today’s society is such a fast lifestyle that people still look for quick alternatives. When it comes to cooking healthy, the perception is it will taste like rocks and twigs. I try to encourage them to keep a good pantry of YOUR good food, make a new recipe once a week, and re-learn how to cook to feel good and fuel your body. Let the food speak for itself,” said Gillard.

Marty Jarvis, director of marketing for Super Saver, Russ’s Market, Save Best and Apple Market stores, rounded out the panel by saying consumers aren’t just shopping in the supermarket anymore. And, the recession has caused people to tighten their belts and spend less. This “trade down” effect includes buying store brands instead of national brands and using more coupons.

Convenience is key in consumer’s minds, even if it’s only perception. They want convenient packaging, local products because they believe it reduces the carbon footprint and strengthens the local economy; they believe local is fresher and consumers want to know the grower. “The great thing is food confidence has been rising across the board and consumers realize the importance of food safety in their homes.” Listen more here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska and the food they produce by visiting And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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