Thanks to their healthy reputation, fruits and vegetables are held in high regard along the crowded food chain. However, getting people to bite merely on reputation alone can be difficult. During the 2012 Florida Ag Expo, a panel of fruit and vegetable marketing insiders discussed how growers can stay connected with consumers and effectively compete for their business. The panel, moderated by Ted Campbell of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, featured Jessica Kerstein of Lipman, Gary Wishnatzki of Wish Farms, and Michael Ryshouwer of Bejo Seeds. The group touched on multiple topics including taste trends, hailing health benefits, the “buy local” picture, and social media strategies.
In order to create demand, Wishnatzki said emphasis should be on growing produce with flavor. “I’ve not always subscribed to that,” he said. “We thought shipping quality and firmness were the top things. They’re still important. They (consumers) might buy the first time with their eyes, but they bought it a second time because they had a good product and enjoyed it.”
The panel pondered how becoming part of the consumer’s social media circle has evolved as standard practice for many producers. Online tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and others are allowing transparency and trust, which can equate to dollars. “That’s what social media has done for us,” Kerstein said. “Our business as a whole has always been B2B, but we’re trying to push that B2C.”
Beyond virtual marketing, hardgood merchandising can still be just as effective. Ryshouwer noted the Tasti-Lee’s newly developed packaging sticker that sports the tomato’s antioxidant attributes. He said marketing efforts have been heavy so far and will be in the future. Similarly, Wishnatzki said his company plans to benchmark and promote the unique nutritional benefits displayed by the different varieties of berries this season. “There’s a huge opportunity here,” he said.