Volume 3 | Issue 1 | Year 2007

Imagine telling your customers to eat more of your foods, guilt free: good-for-you foods that look and taste great, too; Foods that can help people lose weight naturally.
Welcome to the world of produce marketing. Wondering where to sign up for such a cushy job?

Actually, marketing produce is a thrilling ride with both challenges and opportunities.

The Good News

Fresh fruits and vegetables are certainly producing attention in today’s food environment. Faced with an obesity epidemic, fruits and vegetables are among the only foods that Americans are being told by nutrition and health authorities to eat more of, not less.

And of particular interest are the nation’s schools. This is why PMA has partnered with Scholastic Inc. to promote fresh fruits and vegetables and safe food handling to third- and fourth-graders, reaching 10,000 teachers, 300,000 students and 450,000 parents the first year alone of the four-year outreach.

Going into the schools may also promote the sale of fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Already a leading contributor to stores’ bottom lines,produce sales are in a position to skyrocket as new government guidelines advise most Americans to more than double their daily consumption for better health and healthier weight. PMA research has found that produce is a key driver in consumers’ choices of grocery stores. Now convenience stores are stocking fresh fruits and vegetables, from snacks to salads.

Foodservice operators are taking note of produce’s purchasing power, also more consumers factor produce offerings into their restaurant and entrée choices. Putting produce first reduces food costs, while delivering the freshness and bold flavors that diners now demand.

Opportunities Remain

Admittedly, there is plenty of room to increase consumption – and hence sales. But how? Branding and packaging are typically powerful tools for communicating with consumers, creating customer loyalty and cementing repeat sales. Yet unlike most consumer goods categories, few produce brand names are currently well recognized, and most produce is sold without packaging. As a result, a vast majority of consumers recently told PMA they don’t feel strongly about any particular produce brand.

This situation presents an opportunity: PMA is working to help its 2,100 member companies, who hail from all segments of the produce and floral distribution channel, including buyers and sellers, to make the most of it. PMA white papers, consumer research, educational conferences and other tools are helping to educate members on topics ranging from packaging and kid-friendly marketing to partnering with the foodservice industry. Meanwhile PMA is also encouraging the federal government to execute the new dietary guidelines in the government’s own policies and programs including school meals and safety-net food programs for nutritionally at-risk moms and their young children.

Producing Results

Being one of the few food groups that can wear a white hat does have its advantages: the power and reach of the diverse non-produce organizations that support the new brand partnership is one example. In addition, other members of the food industry are clamoring at PMA’s door to partner with produce.

Welcome to the world of produce marketing.

Bryan Silbermann is president of the Produce Marketing Association, the leading global trade association serving the entire produce and floral supply chains by enhancing the marketing of produce, floral, and related products and services worldwide. PMA members are buyers and sellers from every segment of the produce and floral supply chain. Visit www.pma.com.

Julia Daly is a freelance writer with deep roots in the produce industry including marketing fruits and vegetables. She resides in Ashburn, Va.