One of the marquee announcements made at Fresh Summit, PMA’s annual conference and exhibition, is the appointment of a chief marketing officer for PMA. Here is the way PMA promoted the hiring:
Lauren M. Scott joins PMA as Chief Marketing Officer;
Will lead strategic marketing, demand creation efforts
Newark, Del. — To boost demand for fresh fruits, vegetables and floral, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has named a lead staffer for its strategic marketing efforts: Lauren M. Scott. Scott has 20 years’ experience in consumer goods marketing, innovation, and brand management and joined PMA Oct. 13, 2016 as its chief marketing officer.
“Earlier this year, the PMA leadership established marketing as a strategic priority to drive the concept of ‘marketing as a discipline’ throughout the industry. Lauren will lead that in two ways,” said PMA chair-elect John Oxford, who headed the PMA Marketing Task Force that recommended this path for the association. “First, she will continue to execute on common industry demand creation activities like eat brighter!™, FNV and Fresh Takes. Second, she will lead the effort to provide our members with education and tools around consumption-driving marketing,” said Oxford, president and CEO of L&M.
“We are thrilled to have Lauren on board,” said PMA President Cathy Burns. “Lauren will work with our members to build even greater demand for their products by implementing recommendations from PMA’s Marketing Task Force.”
Scott, a self-described foodie, has worked as a marketing executive in beverage companies, including Diageo and PepsiCo. She has led marketing, global brand and category strategy; innovation concepts; and brand activation and development. Reporting to Burns, she will be responsible for global strategic leadership to increase consumer demand for fresh produce and floral products through association and industry marketing initiatives. She will also establish and work with a volunteer Marketing Committee to guide strategy.
“The opportunity to serve such a dynamic industry with incredible growth potential excites me,” Scott said. “Bringing both traditional and innovative marketing strategies to drive PMA members’ product sales to new heights is an opportunity I embrace. I look forward to working with PMA members and staff, and I’m particularly excited to meet members at Fresh Summit in Orlando.”
We haven’t met Ms. Scott yet and certainly wish her every success. She has a blockbuster resume having worked for Colgate Palmolive, PepsiCo and Diageo and, a quick glance at her web site both shows she is clever and makes you want to like her. As she explains “The ‘M’ stands for marketer, manager, muser and mom with an unorthodox mindset, unique problem-solving skills and a witty attitude.”
But her personal note revealing her acceptance of the PMA position also shows why she is going to have a tough time moving the needle on consumption:
I am absolutely thrilled to have been named Chief Marketing Officer for the Produce Marketing Association, a global trade organization representing companies from every segment of the fresh fruit, vegetable and floral industries.
Growing up in New Jersey, I experienced why it truly is the Garden State. I ate plump red tomatoes straight from my dad’s small plot in the backyard and harvested fuzzy peaches from family farms in Monmouth County.
I am excited to be immersed into a new industry and lead the marketing agenda to drive category sales and consumption in a meaningful, fun and positive way.
And for those who know me, if you thought I was a veggie evangelist before, just you wait…
PS: I think bacon is really yummy
We like the way Ms. Scott thinks… after all, we wrote a column, Two Cheers for Bacon, almost five years ago that laid out an approach to boosting consumption focused on culinary technique. We concluded with this:
Want to get children to eat more vegetables? Try adding cheese. We’ve had an extraordinary boom in consumption of Brussels sprouts over the past five years, and we can credit one very important ingredient: Bacon. All over the country, top chefs are adding pancetta, braising in bacon, topping with prosciutto bits, not to mention olive oil, Pecorino Romano, crumbled blue cheese and Parmesan.
There is so much attention paid nowadays to the idea that produce breeding programs need to be focused on producing flavor, and certainly nobody can argue with this — though the economics of the business means that seasonality, yield and an ability to survive transit will always have an important place in breeding considerations. Breeding in flavor is, at best, a very long-term proposition, and no variety will meet the fancy of every palate.
The most immediate and flexible way to bring flavor to produce is through cooking techniques. Maybe the health department wants to offer three cheers for steamed vegetables, but I say let us offer two cheers for bacon... and by selling more flavorful produce, diets will be overall healthier than if we try to enforce an asceticism that turns people away from produce and toward less healthy alternatives.
Yet Ms. Scott’s charming note about her dad’s tomatoes “straight from my dad’s small plot” and peaches “from family farms in Monmouth County” are emotive, but the problem is they have almost nothing to do with the product Ms. Scott is actually assigned to promote.
And there is the rub. The PMA represents producers and importers and retailers of stone fruit that is sometimes delivered mealy and is often distasteful to American consumers, just as much as it represents delicious, juicy, sweet stone fruit delivered in season or jet-fresh from abroad.
Ms. Scott is proud of her role as a mom and so she might relate to this piece about Jr. Pundit Primo, aka William, when he was just two years old. The piece was titled Little Taste Bud:
William Ian Prevor has been to the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association Convention, the Produce Marketing Association Convention, even a PMA Board of Director’s meeting — quite a resume considering he is not yet 18 months old. Indeed he must have been paying attention because he is a stern critic of tasteless produce.
Carrots, peas, corn, plums, nectarines, pineapple, bananas, citrus, apples, pears — William is a forthright aficionado, and he will gladly spit out substandard produce. And it IS often substandard. When I try the same batch, I inevitably find he is right. Today’s blueberries are tart, the melon just isn’t ripe, the papaya has an off taste, and the apple is mealy…
And this is the dilemma. It is easy for executives in the produce industry to note the power of marketing dollars and marketing techniques used on behalf of Coca-Cola or, in Ms. Scott’s case, Pepsi. It is easy for executives in the produce industry to think that if only we had these same techniques and budgets, produce sales would boom.
But these expenditures and techniques work because if a batch of Pepsi is somehow off, it gets thrown away. Whereas the worst produce is marketed as earnestly as the best. Indeed in our critique of “Eat Brighter,” we once mentioned that some clever produce marketer might think that brand would be just the thing to help him move his #2s.
The industry is going to look to Ms. Scott to sell their product, but we hope she will take on a larger role: Of telling the industry what has to be done as a prerequisite to marketing effectively.
We wish her every good fortune. Her success will be our own.
Bruce Peterson – the founder of the Wal-Mart produce program – has graced the stage at many of our events providing insightful analysis that we recorded in pieces such as these:
Former Wal-Mart Executive Bruce Peterson Presents At The London Produce Show And Conference: ASDA As A Case Study — The Pressures On Retail And The Path To The Future
HEADLINER AT THE LONDON PRODUCE SHOW AND CONFERENCE: Former Wal-Mart Exec Bruce Peterson Speaks Out On Consumer Value Perception And The Future Of UK Retailing
Bruce Peterson, Founder Of Wal-Mart Produce Program, Will Urge Industry To Rage Against Mediocrity, Value Experience Over Education, And Merchandise To Wow The Consumer At The London Produce Show And Conference
'Professor' Bruce Peterson Talks About Traceability, Immigration, Transportation and Water Utilization
Now, in the aftermath of the merger of Ahold and Delhaize, he heads to the very heart of the European produce industry — the Netherlands — to share what the experience of building the largest produce program in the world taught him about retail differentiation.
We asked John Aiello, Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS to find out more:
Former Senior Vice President and
General Merchandise Manager
of Perishables for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Q: Can you give us a sneak preview of the topic you will cover at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference in November?
A: Yes, there is an interesting phenomenon going on with regard to retail supermarkets right now — consolidation. For example, Ahold and Delhaize have merged, and there has been a lot of other consolidation going on as well. And this phenomenon creates the question of how one company can differentiate itself from another. In Amsterdam, I will be talking about the different ways that can happen.
Q: How do you define Retail Differentiation?
A: Retail differentiation can be defined as the things that make a company stand out from its competitors. How this happens is of utmost importance — what a company does has a direct impact on the consumers; it can make them buy more or buy less, or it can drive them away entirely.
Q: How do you think shoppers view these consolidated stores? Is there any data or surveys that have been collected in terms of this question?
A: Many times, a customer doesn't ever really know consolidation has occurred unless the dominant company does things to change the name of the store, the look of the store, or the product line being carried. But I am not personally aware of any data that has been collected on the question.
Nonetheless, retailers need to be very careful after a merger in terms of the changes that are made. People don't really like change. And if you start making [too many] substantial changes, you risk losing customers. Shoppers go to a particular store based on the look of the store and the products carried there. For example, you have to be very careful if you change the name of a store after consolidation.
Stores have a history in the community and people get used to that history. But if you do end up changing the name, you have to be very thoughtful about how you present that change. Ultimately, retail executives must be both aware of how consumers will perceive a merger as well as how a merger will impact the bottom line. Sometimes things that seem to make sense, say consolidated procurement, can have an impact on the consumer experience that leads to unexpected consequences.
Q: Amazon Fresh continues to make further inroads into the world of produce. And recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon plans to infiltrate the grocery business with a chain of convenience-style stores and drive-through pickup depots called Project Como. Where do you see this push going in terms of produce sales?
A: Ever since online companies like Amazon Fresh surfaced, the brick-and-mortar industry has been concerned that they were going to lose shoppers as more and more people buy online. And I don't think this has been true. Pure online shopping for fruits and vegetables is never going to be a major part of the produce business in the United States.
Q: Why not?
A: First off, 80% of fruit and vegetable sales are made on impulse. People make these kinds of shopping decisions when they are in the store. If it looks good at the time when they are there, they buy it.
Ultimately, the selection of fruits and vegetables is a highly personal experience. People buy fruit the way they like it. Some like bananas half ripe, others all yellow. People want to see and squeeze a piece of fruit to determine if it meets their personal criteria. And this can't be done when you're buying from the computer.
Even those consumers who doubt their own expertise and would happily pass along produce selection to a Fresh Direct or Amazon Fresh, can only do that with items they know they want to buy. So much of produce is bought because the item is attractive. They never intended to buy blackberries, but they see ones that look so delicious.
Q: How do you expect Amazon Fresh to impact the overall market long term?
A: Even though pure online shopping won't be a major part of produce sales, what does have the potential for great success is what's known as “brick- and-click.” This refers to a blending of the online and personal shopping experiences. With brick-and-click, people order online and then go to the store to collect their items.
This allows them to see what they're getting and make sure that it's to their liking. Amazon Fresh has recognized that this does not have to be an 'either-or' proposition and that the online and traditional brick-and-mortar experiences can be blended.
It is also true that “brick-and-click” offers a different kind of convenience than home delivery. Most people don’t have maids, many don’t want strangers in their home or garage and, many do not want to be tied down to a delivery schedule. But if they can drive through on the way home from work and their order is ready – that defines convenience for many consumers.
Q: Given all of these developments, what do you think traditional retailers must do going forward to stay relevant in the produce market?
A: Great question. Basically, they must somehow differentiate themselves in the mind of the customer. You do this in three ways — operational excellence; product excellence; and service excellence. But you have to do it in at least one of these three areas.
For example, Aldi and Wal-Mart dominate in operational excellence. And Whole Foods and Nordstrom’s are noted for their service excellence. Companies like Apple and Whole Foods (again) are recognized for product excellence – people identify these stores with the quality of the merchandise they get there.
Q: And what minefields do they have to avoid so as to not fade and falter?
A: Becoming marginalized. What are Sears and K-Mart noted for today? Their products and service are not excellent. They've become marginalized. And now they're going away.
Q: Given all these changes and all of these new players entering the retail market, will food safety become a more widespread concern and do you think traceability will be impacted?
A: First off, let me say that the safety of a product must never become a marketing tool. You never want to hear that one company's product is safer than that of another company. All produce everywhere should be equally safe. Food safety needs to be a ‘given’ in the mind of the consumer. No matter what, the customers need to feel secure when they're buying fruits and vegetables.
In terms of the second part of your question - traceability is of great importance. Even though people don't want to hear it, produce is not entirely safe. It's low risk, less risky than many other consumables. But it's not entirely safe. There's always going to be a recall somewhere for some reason in the future.
Remember the spinach crisis a number of years ago? That's a great example of what can happen. In virtually every other food business except produce, once a recall happens, a business has the ability to quickly identify and isolate the product and inform the public. But fruits and vegetables are not that way.
To this day, they are still not able to identify what went wrong with that spinach e. coli recall in 2006. It's very difficult to create effective traceability in terms of produce. And that's why a crisis can last for months. And when this does happen, people get scared and stop buying the product for a long time.
Q: How will online retailers such as Amazon Fresh insure that food safety stays a top priority that's not lost in the competition for a bigger market share?
A: I have to believe that Amazon Fresh's protocols regarding food safety must be state-of-the-art, because if anyone ever got sick from one of their products, it could potentially destroy their produce business. It would change the public's perceptions of the safety of the online process, and people probably wouldn't [want to] risk it anymore.
Q: The produce market has always been volatile and susceptible to substantial inflation. What do these changes in the retail schematic mean for pricing? And does the existence of these alternative outlets help insure that people with lower incomes aren't priced out of the market for fresh fruits and vegetables?
A: All retailers price to demographics. Price matters. There are always going to be more poor people than rich people in the world. And everybody likes to save money. Deep discount stores like Aldi and Lidl have taken over a large share of the market because they have set a new bar in terms of [the public's] price expectation. Deep discount stores strive to lower their operating costs. And if you can operate for less, you don't have to have as high of a margin.
Q: Over the past several years, we have seen alternative retail outlets such as Dollar General now competing for produce consumers with the traditional supermarkets. Additionally, you can even find select pieces of fruit for sale in gas stations and convenience stores. What does this mean to the traditional produce schematic in the long-run?
A: What virtually every retailer understands is that when you sell consumable items, you insure that consumers shop with you more often. Consumables increase customer traffic. If somebody knows they can buy bananas at the same place they're buying gas, they may shop there more often to save time. As the Pundit himself once said, it is death by a thousand cuts for the traditional retailers.
Even though the amount of produce these types of alternative outlets are selling is miniscule, there can be thousands of these locations. And they're doing a good chunk of their business based on the number of locations. It comes down to this: For every item a person buys in one of these alternative outlets, it's one item less they're not buying in a traditional store.
Q: How much of the market share do these alternative outlets control?
A: I would say the percentage of the market share they control is probably pretty small, but again, it becomes death by a thousand cuts for the traditional markets because there are so many locations.
Q: There are some newcomers fighting hard for a share of the upscale produce market — places like Fresh Market, Sprouts, Colorado-based Lucky’s. In turn, they've caused the big chains to re-invent themselves. Many of these big chains appear to be creating their own new concepts to compete — for example, Wal-Mart has developed a smaller format store and Publix has launched Greenwise; Kroger is also developing its own small format. Whole Foods is even trying to move into less affluent areas. Do you think they're succeeding?
A: Absolutely. I call it playing "small ball"! With the small footprint comes smaller capital and operating costs. In turn, this helps bring more competitive pricing and a bigger return on capital.
Q: In the end, what's all this mean to the consumer? Are they better served by this jostling for market presence?
A: We are living in the time of the consumer. Shoppers can get anything they want any time they want. And many times they can do it without leaving the house. And I see “brick-and-click” as being the dominant format moving forward. It offers so much to the consumer — competitive pricing; strong customer service; and a wide-assortment of products.
Q: Last question… What are the three biggest changes to the retail scene over the past decade?
A: That's an interesting question. Number one, I'd say it's the continued proliferation of further-processed products –things like packaged salads and pre-cut fruit. Number two, the proliferation of juice. There are so many different kinds of juice now you can't keep track of them; and the amount of floor space given to juice by stores is gigantic now. Third, the proliferation of organic products, which [is something that] continues to evolve.
Of course, being set in the Netherlands we can expect much talk at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference to focus on the recent merger between Ahold and Delhaize. After all these are major chains on both sides of the Atlantic.
The key in looking at the balance between retail consolidation and retail differentiation is this: Retail consolidation is a financial move. Companies buying one another, merging etc., need not have any impact on consumers or on the supply base.
More often than not, however, consolidating companies look to capitalize on consolidation by finding cost reductions.This can mean consolidated procurement programs, eliminating banners to maximize advertising effectiveness and obtain private label efficiencies, standardized training and much more.
Then the impact can be powerful, on consumers and on the consolidated organization.
In order to better compete with Wal-Mart, Safeway famously looked to scale up by acquiring numerous regional US chains, such as Dominick’s in Chicago, Randall’s in Texas and Genuardi’s in Pennsylvania. Genuardi’s became a poster child for how not to do an acquisition.
The Genuardi family created a chain that was focused on an Italian heritage. But Safeway wanted to scale up its private label and so quickly altered Genuardi’s product mix, replacing robust Italian labels and flavors with its own more middle-American private label lines. It was a disaster, and market share collapsed as consumers rejected Safeway’s alterations to the assortment and took their business elsewhere.
The failure was not so much the corporate consolidation as the way Safeway handled the merchandising – although handling it that way may have been inevitable as Safeway’s motivation for acquisition was neither to profitably operate a few stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, nor to expand the Genuardi’s chain to capture Italian consumers, it was to find outlets for its private label product.
Delhaize itself offered another example when it decided to consolidate procurement between its Food Lion and its Hannaford divisions. We wrote a number of pieces on this subject:
Though Stacked With Talent, Can A Consolidated Delhaize With Diverse Banners Meet Its Overall Strategic Goals?
Delhaize Advises Vendors Of Plan To Consolidate Procurement: Is This A Win Or A Loss For Delhaize…And For The Broader Industry?
Amidst Procurement Angst From Wal-Mart And Delhaize, Kroger Makes Changes More Transparent To Vendors
The problem here is that if a company is procurement-driven, always trying to get the best price, this will lead to consolidation on fewer vendors and fewer SKUs – which can be fine but will not work if one is trying to differentiate a banner with, say, a wider product assortment from a larger vendor group!
Competition from online sources adds to the mix. We are not as sanguine as Bruce is over the online threat to physical stores. Impulse-buying can take many forms, and a big part of what Fresh Direct and Amazon Fresh are working on is trying to identify ways to stimulate impulse buys on line. Sure, seeing something nice in a store can stimulate a purchase but so can a digital coupon, a recipe just perfect for the holiday appearing on screen or a promise that today’s melons are particularly flavorful.
In fact because the onscreen experience can be customized, to take into account purchase history, allergies, propensity to use coupons, buy sales, etc. – there is reason to think that impulse buying will eventually be more likely to incur online than in a physical store. In a physical store, it is one-size-fits-all, so that a massive display of, say, peanut butter, will fall on deaf ears to someone allergic to peanuts.
Online, the peanut offer won’t even popup because you have already entered that you don’t buy peanut products.
We are also not certain that we see the proliferation of produce in alternative venues as a zero-sum game. Yes it is entirely possible that making produce available in more venues reduces sales in existing venues, but it is also possible that someone hungry walks into a gas station mini-mart and decides to buy a banana rather than a doughnut.
Retail differentiation is a fascinating topic. In the US, Trader Joe’s differentiates with gastronomic innovation while Aldi differentiates with price. Whole Foods is scrambling to retain a differentiation based on values as its differentiation by product type, notably organics, dissipates.
Come and join the discussion at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference!
You can check out the website here:
Look at a brochure here.
Register at this link
And book a hotel here.
Come to the heart of the European produce industry. Come to The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference!
It was the very first edition of The New York Produce Show and Conference, and we had announced in this piece that John Stanton would be speaking. The accolades began to fall in, including one from Jim Allen, President of the New York Apple Association, Inc.
Jim is going to be present at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference in his capacity as vice chair of US Apple Export Council, which is exhibiting.
Jim also is going to be retiring, and the Amsterdam show is his final overseas foray before his retirement. But, back in his salad days, he sent us this note about John Stanton and the broader educational concept we had developed:
With great excitement and anticipation, I await The New York Produce Show and Conference and the presentation on Local Preference Versus Organic, by Dr. Stanton.
John Stanton, undoubtedly in my book, is one of the best, if not the best authority on consumer behavior when it comes to purchasing foods and produce.
He continues to “Delight” his audiences with thought-provoking data, information and advice on how to reach consumers in a way that will influence their purchase decisions. Time after time, Dr. Stanton has identified consumer traits that if properly applied in marketing, will end in success!
His presence, along with the other outstanding presenters at the New York Produce Show, is certainly worth the registration fee alone, while the excitement of the show will be a bonus!
— Jim Allen
New York Apple Association, Inc.
Fishers, New York
Jim was right about John Stanton, and Professor Stanton has often delighted audiences at our events, with presentations we memorialized in pieces such as this:
Branding And In-Store Marketing: Perfect Together... St. Joseph’s Superstar Professor John Stanton To Present At London Produce Show And Conference
Bringing Produce To New Markets: Opportunities And Obstacles In The New Retail Environment...St. Joseph Food Marketing Guru John Stanton Gives Featured Presentation At The New York Produce Show And Conference
WHAT IS IN A LABEL? Does Promoting No-GMOs Impact Perception Of The Rest Of The Department? Would A Positive Message Smell As Sweet? St. Joe’s John Stanton To Address The London Produce Show And Conference
Research To Be Unveiled At The New York Produce Show And Conference Shows ‘Local’ Preference Versus Organic
Now Professor Stanton has agreed to bring his insight to the very heart of the European produce trade, to The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference. We asked John Aiello, Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS, to see if he could get some insight into what Professor Stanton intends to present:
Dr. John Stanton
Professor and Chairman
Food Marketing Department
Saint Joseph’s University
Q: How long have you been in food marketing and what drew you to this area of study?
A: I have been in food marketing for 42 years. I attended Syracuse University and eventually obtained my PhD. And by chance, as a newly minted PhD, I got the opportunity to do some consulting for Campbell Soup. The project lasted 13 years. I was in a Consumers Insights Group while at Campbell, working on a variety of things.
Q: Can you give me a brief overview of the topic you will cover at the Amsterdam Produce Show in November?
A: The topic I am going to present will be “Taking Advantage of Promotional Optimization In The Fresh Food Industry.” While big companies selling consumer products have utilized these analytical techniques, the produce and fresh food industry has lagged behind in applying them. One of the purposes of my speech in Amsterdam will be to look at the advantages of Promotional Optimization and then demonstrate how these methods can be applied to the produce industry.
Q: What does Promotional Optimization actually entail?
A: Promotional Optimization uses data and analytics to determine the most effective and efficient ways to promote products in retail stores. In more simple terms, it can be defined as promotion that primarily takes place in-store. As I said, most of the big companies selling consumer products utilize these analytics to look at things like how to lower price and how to effectively use coupons. But the produce industry hasn't used these promotional methods. Basically, the produce industry has said, “How much lettuce do you want to buy? Here's the price.”
Q: Why has there been such a chasm between how the consumer products and produce industries approach this question?
A: Traditionally, the companies that sell packaged food have relied heavily on promotions to sell their products. And now they rely on Promotional Optimization techniques. But the produce business has not used much promotion. I think the reason they have relied less on promotion is because the origin of the product is fresh, not packaged. Nonetheless, these big companies show that Promotional Optimization techniques work, because they're making more money using them than if they weren't using them.
Q: So if I understand you correctly, these techniques work best for foods that are in a pre-packaged form?
A: That's right. In the past, with produce, producers didn't believe they needed promotion. [Their position was that] people know what an apple is. Either you want to buy it or you don't. But the further processed the produce (things like pre-packaged salad and pre-cut fruit), the more need there is for some level of promotion. And that's the point you should use the modern techniques of Promotional Optimization so you don't waste money with your promotional campaigns.
Q: What would be the optimal way to apply these techniques to the produce industry?
A: To take a prepared, pre-packaged produce product and then emulate what Kellogg does to promote kids’ cereals. I can actually give you a good example. Most people like to cook at home. But they don't really want to spend time chopping ingredients.
They might like to cook, but they hate the work. No problem. You can buy a pre-packaged combination of chopped onion and garlic and other basics that can be used in a variety of dishes. It's a fabulous product. But it's not selling. It lacks the promotion to bring it to the attention of the consumer.
Q: What are two of the most effective ways to market produce or fresh consumables?
A: The one thing that never changes is that taste is the single most important characteristic to the consumers. If something doesn't taste good, they won't buy it. Following this, sampling is probably the most effective tool to use. It gives people the chance to taste the food and decide if they like it. The downside is that it is expensive to do this. But make no mistake – taste is king.
Second, you have to draw people's attention to a product. Tell them it's there. Tell them how good it is. And tell them with some level of excitement and with some adjective that describes what you are selling and how proud you are of your product.
Q: How has the emergence of online retailers such as Amazon Fresh changed the way fresh fruits and vegetables are marketed?
A: As far as the produce companies are concerned, they don't care if a product sells at Safeway or Amazon. They don't really care where the consumer buys it, as long as they buy it. When food first went on sale online, I didn't think fresh food would sell there.
The reason was people want to see their meat and fruit before they buy it. But that was actually false. For example, young people coming into the market don't know what a good or bad cantaloupe is. For the most part, they haven't been exposed to learning what to look for when you're buying that cantaloupe.
So they turn to Amazon, thinking that their pickers know better than they do in looking for in a good cantaloupe. I think the online fresh market is only going to grow because millennials go to the computer when they want to buy something. They have a habit of going to Amazon. They're “Digital Natives.” It's who they are.
Q: Do marketing campaigns and statements made on packages really affect the shopper's decision to buy an item or pass on it? And is the ultimate goal of a product label to call attention to the product or to convey information?
A: I think labels on packages are extremely effective. In effect, it's your last salesperson. But for the most part, packages are not used that way. They have traditionally been used to communicate boring information as opposed to creating excitement.
But this is changing in the prepared food industry, as companies see the value of using labels to promote and call attention to products. Think about it: If you're buying spaghetti sauce and one label has a nice picture of an Italian countryside and maybe with a glass of red wine on the table, it makes you visualize. And pretty soon you want an Italian dinner.
Q: How does the constant barrage of scientific data that's out there -- these reports talking about things like diabetes, cholesterol and obesity -- ultimately affect food marketing strategies?
A: We just want to feed the beast. Whatever you say you want to buy, we'll make it and sell it. If people think kale is better to eat, we'll have no position if it is or it isn't. We'll simply grow more kale and let you buy more.
Q: You have written a great deal about customer service in your career. How can companies better employ customer service to enhance a brand and create a bond with the shopper?
A: Most customer service has to be delivered at the retail level where the customer is. The distribution level is less involved in it. But the answer is: Be pro-active in customer service! Don't just sit and wait to solve problems. Be pro-active. And don't let the problems happen in the first place.
Q: Is there a certain demographic or target-market produce retailers are after?
A: It's the group of people that has a pulse and a penny. It's everybody. One advantage that the produce industry has enjoyed is that it hasn't had a problem with social media attacking it. The industry isn't selling hot dogs. It's selling tomatoes and apples and other wonderful things. Things that are good for everybody.
The question of how the industry can most effectively increase movement of produce is an interesting one, and exploring the way changes in presentation, such as packaging, can impact these opportunities is important. Indeed, we have had Lisa Cork lay out some of the ways packaging can impact sales in presentations we previewed with pieces such as these:
Lisa Cork To Address London Produce Show And Conference: Packaging As A Marketing Tool
Fresh Produce Marketing: The Real Deal
Promotional Optimization involves a lot more than packaging; it is an application of science to decisions, such as pricing, often made based on gut feel.
What price level, for example, will maximize gross profit dollars?
If you are going to do demos, what mix of stores and shopping dates optimizes sales?
All too often, produce is merchandised and marketed based on what someone was taught by his or her first boss 30 years ago — despite the fact that we have no reason to believe that approach produces optimal results.
Professor Stanton is coming to the Netherlands to speak about how the industry can professionalize and use better techniques to move toward optimal results.
Come and be part of the conversation. Come to The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, where “The more you know, the more you’ll grow.”
You can register right here.
Hotel rooms in the headquarters hotel are available here.
Take a look at the Pundit piece introducing the event here.
The brochure is here.
And you can check out the website here.
We work hard to make sure that events such as The New York Produce Show and Conference, The London Produce Show and Conference and The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference are rich with opportunities for the industry to network, learn and engage in commercial activity. We focus on helping the whole world of produce pivot its attention to the host city, region and country. And we Celebrate Fresh!
Of course, this means we run media programs, consumer influencer programs, student programs, spouse/partner programs, culinary programs, global trade programs, “Thought Leader” panels , Networking Receptions and much more.
In each city we also run a series of regional tours. In Amsterdam, for example, we have produce industry executives attending the event from every continent, except Antarctica! Many have never visited the Netherlands before. It would be a terrible shame if people traveled so far and didn’t get out and about, so this year we have four regional tours as part of the event:
In Search Of The Best Talent… Robinson Fresh Opens New European Headquarters In Amsterdam...Attendees Of The Amsterdam Produce Show And Conference Invited On A Special Tour
Amsterdam Industry Tours
Yet no matter how many programs we offer and how many tours we conduct, there are many other things to see and do, especially in a place such as Holland where the produce industry is celebrated. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to pay a visit to one of many produce-related venues attendees could visit while in the Netherlands:
Miranda van den Ende
Honselersdijk, The Netherlands
Q: How did Tomato World come to be?
A: I was a children’s therapist, which colors my thoughts, as a precursor to opening Tomato World in 2008. The healthy snack tomatoes/baby vegetables concept was taking off in the Netherlands. Every supermarket in the Netherlands wanted to get these Tommies snack tomatoes, and also the mini cucumbers and little sweet peppers.
In the Netherlands, we do a very good job with horticulture — we’re leaders in technology and sustainability — and I thought it would be great to start a place to promote it.
Q: Did you bring in partners to realize your vision?
A: The initiators and biggest sponsors of Tomato World are Greenco and The Greenery BV. We wanted to showcase the country’s ingenious tomato offerings and high tech operations, and create a collaborative platform for knowledge-exchange and innovation. Tomato World houses an education center with workshops, a demo kitchen, and a 1500-square-meter greenhouse hub, where we grow and manage as many as 80 different tomato varieties we get from seed breeders.
When we started, we had 40 companies on board, but the timing of the launch wasn’t ideal because it was right when the economic crisis hit. Tomato World didn’t immediately have a high return on investment, so some left. It is now supported by about 25 companies in Dutch horticulture, while branching out to other sector peers, policy makers, retailers, and consumer groups.
Q: Who is your target audience?
A: We receive visitors from across the Netherlands and from all over the world, retailers and industry executives interested in various aspects of the supply chain. We actually have a huge following in Japan. Our main purpose is business-to-business. In the years we’ve had Tomato World, we thought to have something for consumers. Voedingscentrum, The Netherlands Nutrition Centre, did a consumption study and it clearly shows vegetables are not common in the diets in the Netherlands. Kids usually don’t like vegetables so we must try to change mindset. Kids need to see the growing process and to learn at a young age why vegetables are good to eat, and what they can do for you.
We founded Healthy Food Academy, instigating workshops and tours to teach children and parents about food and the innovation of Dutch horticulture, but for consumers more about the health and nutrition components.
Our new story line is the World Food Challenge to feed nine billion people by 2050. We focus on the efficiencies and sustainable growing, and our exposure there to learn about solutions to the big challenges. We welcome companies attending the Amsterdam Produce Show to come to Tomato World and join in the dialogue.
Q: Upon entering Tomato World, it’s exciting to see the expansive, colorful, and aromatic display, featuring dozens of unique tomato varieties, freshly grown at the onsite greenhouse. Best of all, visitors get to sample them.
A: Visitors have the opportunity to taste, savor and compare flavor and characteristic profiles, and discover often nuanced qualities.
Q: How many of these varieties are available for buyers to incorporate into their produce departments?
A: All are available to market.
Q: If this plethora of varieties is accessible, why don’t we see more choices on supermarket shelves? Is it too costly to mass produce some of these specialty SKUs? Is it a category management issue, a lack of shelf space, or a marketing challenge…?
A: The problem is that for most consumers, the tomato is red, and new varieties come in all colors and characteristics. Consumers may think they’re not ripe or there’s a problem and they leave it on the shelf. Yellow, for example, is associated with sourness.
There are different categories of tomatoes -- middle class tomatoes and big class tomatoes -- and every variety has a different shelf life, a range of characteristics, and quality measurements… tough skin, juicy, aroma, sweet, sour, firm, etc. It takes years to develop a new variety… cherry, cocktail, loose cherry plum, loose classic, loose intermediate, large vine, etc.
Retailers need to understand these distinctions so they can customize and balance programs to address varied market needs. Packaging is very important too, and the sustainability properties, as well as the cool transport, temperature control, distribution and handling, which all impact shelf life.
We have to work to promote these differences and let consumers taste the varieties. Greenco does demos at retailers. Consumers need to know the variety names and connect them to the different flavors and qualities.
Q: Doesn’t that first involve winning over the supermarket buyer?
A: That’s an important point. Supermarkets carry familiar brands, Tommies and Tasty Tom. Some varieties look the same, but the taste and quality can be different. Retailers want to choose a brand their consumers know. Supermarkets don’t want to take a risk with unfamiliar varieties. And they demand a certain price point. Development of these new specialty varieties can be quite costly. Retailers also express concern of being dependent on a variety that may not be readily available all the time. We want to change that.
This requires cooperation between retailers and suppliers. Story-telling is so important. For instance, we have a tomato variety with a heart inside, which makes for a nice demo. We have a good sustainability story too, employing sophisticated, environmentally friendly climate and energy systems and advanced cultivation techniques.
Q: Does Tomato World conduct varietal R&D and other studies in-house?
A: We do simple flavor tests here, but do not have a research development department. We’re connected with the University of Amsterdam and other institutions pursuing breakthrough research, and Tomato World acts as a valuable resource in collecting and analyzing a wide-range of research results.
In the Netherlands, the horticulture industry utilizes traditional greenhouses, but we also explain about the new technologies and how companies are investing in making crops more sustainable. We also have our own program development projects. One of our partners, for instance, is a greenhouse builder.
We bring in retail employees to share information. Retailers are surprised to learn that it costs around 70,000 Euros to purchase 1 kilo of seeds. For a little plum variety, that could equal one Euro per seed, which is a substantial investment for a producer. It usually takes six years to develop a new variety, and there’s the cost for the research, the tedious development and labor. When retailers understand the costs and challenges, it changes their perspective.
Q: What would you say is the most important takeaway for people visiting Tomato World?
A: Retailers can gain an edge and have something unique to offer consumers, by not only leading with price but by focusing on taste, new and surprising varieties, and the consumer experience.
There is a good lesson: Cutting price is easy, but making sure you always have varieties that give the consumer a great experience is very hard.
Please join us at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference and explore this incredible country with incredible places – like Tomato World!
You can register here.
Hotel rooms at the headquarters hotel are available here.
Look at the Pundit piece announcing the event here.
Take a glance at the brochure here
And check out the website here.
Come to The Kingdom of the Netherlands; come to The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, where we will be #CelebratingFresh!