Christie said the produce industry has “allowed the media to define who we are. It’s time to take back our brand. Tell the real story. We need to invest in science and technology.”

Technology will be the game changer and will play “a significant role in food production and marketing. We have new retailers and on-line purchases. Virtual stores have witnessed a 130-percent increase in on-line sales in Europe and Asia. Mobile phone apps are used in virtual grocery stores.

“We have connected consumers, the most sophisticated consumers ever.” She categorizes digital shoppers into two groups—“digital immigrants,” those who adopted digital technology later in life, and “digital natives,” those who grew up with the technology. Many of those digital natives make decisions through social media. “They are big buyers and have changed the market.”

To reach that market, Christie challenged the produce industry to become “engaged, informed and to collaborate and co-create. And remember that your online reputation is crucial.”

She encouraged the industry to embrace change and to prepare for it. “If you’re asking the same questions that you asked last year in your business planning sessions, you’re already behind,” she said.

“Consider a new term, ‘glocal,’ which means think globally but act locally,” Christie said. “Take into account the influence of the consumers and develop the ability to communicate with them.”

Change may be challenging, but that doesn’t mean fruit and vegetable producers, packers and others in the food industry have to stand by and watch. As Dylan intoned: “…you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin'.”