Dan O’Connell – CEO
What’s a brand in produce today? Is it a packer label, a variety of a crop, a “dreamed-up” store label or a more traditional “CPG brand” supported by the art and science of branding? The answer in produce today – we believe our next Produce Brand Study coming summer 2021 will determine – is all of the above. If the consumer believes it is a brand – then it is! Regardless where your company is in its branding orientation, the question is not to brand or not brand, for who doesn’t want higher margins, loyal followings and a “green light” from retailers and consumers for future innovation? The question today is “how to brand produce.” Many growers and packers are hesitant to take the risks of investing in a long-term brand development program. But that doesn’t mean they have to forego the benefits of branding; there are many paths to adding value and winning at retail.
The produce industry, at large, is in its early stages of Brand Development. As it transitions from a commodity business to a value-added branded business, there are many opportunities to add value and grow margins. Here are the Top 10 Ways to drive commodity margins and move to Brand Love over time.
- Own the Category – Sure you have lots of competitors in your category, but ever notice those who shout the loudest get the business? Invest in telling your story, educating your public, and developing ideas to drive usage, trial and repeat purchases. Partner big with retailers.
- Convenient Packaging – Make it easier to get to the good stuff and avoid the bad. Take steps out of things for the consumer or keep produce fresher longer. Tap the growing network of co-packers and work your retailer relationships.
- Do the Right “ING” – Slicing, dicing, cubing, trimming, sizing, sorting, squeezing, sautéing, marinading, pureeing – you get the point. Simple steps add up!
- Transparency – Want to compete with store brands or private labels? Show them your farms, introduce your producers, tell them how you care for the land – ever see a retailer’s farm fields?
- Community Engagement – It takes a village to build a brand, and increasing your presence in your communities will keep you top of mind. Your farm communities, customer communities, industry communities and geographical consumer communities are all fair game.
- Third-Party Endorsements – The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval paved the way for countless organizations whose voices carry a lot of weight with consumers – and retailers. You have a good story to tell, and they are skilled at getting the word out!
- Education – We are not born with the instincts to turn an artichoke into a meal. But those who can fill that gap are already winning.
- Better Farm-to-Table Stories – Who really knows what happens on that farm in the Southern Hemisphere, but your story can be front and center. When in doubt, consumers will always pick the trusted source.
- Omni-Channel Marketing – Retail, foodservice, club or convenience? Why choose one? Be everywhere your consumers want to enjoy fresh produce!
- Influencer Advocacy – There are more bloggers/advocates in the U.S. than there are lawyers. Many actually know what they are doing – and can be valuable members of your team.
Arguably there is overlap in some of these strategies. But if you are struggling in getting your company to take the huge hurdle into branding, these focused strategies might help you build your business case internally.