With the number of blueberry growers across the state increasing over the past three decades, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has continued to expand efforts to market Florida blueberries and support members of the industry. With an early growing season compared to traditional blueberry production in states like Michigan, Florida farmers see less competition with domestic growers and can offer a fresher product than foreign markets.
On the Radar
In recent years, there has been much discussion about temperature and its effect on the development of specialty crops. FDACS, in conjunction with the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association is working to develop an effective crop forecasting system to assist in making informed marketing decisions for the promotion of Florida blueberries.
Using Georgia’s forecasting system as a model, it was determined that first a survey should be conducted of Florida growers to determine if a forecasting system was desirable. More than 130 blueberry growers were surveyed by phone in 2016 with 79% of the respondents indicating that a forecasting system would benefit their business and should be pursued. Of those who were surveyed, 65% were currently using Florida Automated Weather Network data to monitor field weather conditions.
A number of variables must be quantified, however, to develop a crop forecasting system such as that used in Georgia. Collecting data such as acreage, varieties, plant density, age of plantings, location of farms and plans for future expansion would be needed for implementation.
In the meantime, FDACS plans to continue an aggressive marketing campaign for Florida blueberries in the coming year.
For the 2017 season, Fresh From Florida advertising coordinated efforts across television, digital, print, and social media channels by encouraging Florida shoppers to seek out Florida blueberries, while retail partners, including Publix and Winn Dixie, reinforced the campaign message with grocery cart ads, weekly circulars, and sampling events.
Television advertisements ran on 85 stations in 10 major media markets. Billboards were placed along major roadways in five markets. And digital advertisements were featured on geo-targeted websites, including FoodNetwork.com, MyRecipes.com, and RachaelRay.com.
Similarly, print advertisements promoted recipes using Florida blueberries in Taste of the South, Southern Lady, Cooking Light, Rachael Ray, and Garden & Gun magazines. As the season waned, radio ads were utilized to drive listeners to Florida blueberry U-Pick operations.
On the social media front, blog posts and sponsored advertisements on Facebook and Instagram promoted Florida blueberries and U-Pick farms, garnering more than 1.5 million impressions and resulting in nearly 10,000 visitors to the Fresh From Florida website.
Two “Fresh!” videos featuring blueberries also were released, acquiring more than 210,000 views. The Fresh! video campaign launched in October 2016 and is a collection of hands-only, how-to videos that highlight Florida commodities and encourage viewers to incorporate Florida-grown products in their recipes.
These media efforts directly support the ongoing programs with grocery chains domestically and across the globe. FDACS partnered with 30 retailers in the U.S. and Canada this year, which represents a total of more than 12,000 individual stores where Florida blueberries were highlighted.
Strength in Numbers
Producers have the opportunity to leverage the FDACS brand and marketing expertise by joining as a member of Fresh From Florida. With an annual fee of just $50, members have access to the Fresh From Florida logo to use for clamshells and other packaging, as well as customized farm signage, point-of-purchase materials, industry advertising and more. Fresh From Florida membership allows producers to align with the brand and take advantage of marketing activity. Other benefits of membership include subscription to the Fresh From Florida magazine, newsletters, market updates from FDACS, and discounts on advertising and tradeshow participation.
For more information about joining Fresh From Florida, or to learn more about the department’s ongoing efforts related to blueberry production and promotion, email me or visit FreshFromFlorida.com.