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How Will Success Be Measured For
Fresh For Ellen Social Media Campaign?

We’ve heard from Dan’l Mackey Almy many times here at the Pundit. We’ve sometimes included these communications in pieces such as these:

Perishable Thoughts — Hope Obama Helps Country ‘Arise’

Pundit’s Mailbag — Profitable Participation

So it was, of course, a pleasure that our piece, Plea For Ellen DeGeneres To Consider Produce In Her Sugar-Free Diet, brought a response from the “ring leader” of the effort:

Thank you so much for including the Fresh for Ellen efforts in your recent edition of the Perishable Pundit. We are blown away by the willingness of everyone to see this effort for what it is… a grass roots effort to promote fresh produce in a unique way utilizing a VERY small budget. We indeed hope this spurs many other efforts from our industry to connect with consumers directly and to share our MANY wonderful stories and fresh products.

I was a bit bummed your team hadn’t heard of our success prior to your release on Friday so that you could accurately report our progress. We tweeted and posted on Facebook all day Wednesday and released a special edition of The Core on Thursday sharing what Ellen said on Wednesday’s The Ellen DeGeneres show, “I love my oranges and Florida citrus.” She also posted a video earlier in the week speaking about sugar snap peas being a healthy sugar. Coincidence or not, the fresh produce industry is realizing a big win in the fact that a megastar is promoting our products to a worldwide audience.

The overwhelming support that we have received from the industry and consumers alike in just two short weeks is promising. The Fresh for Ellen community is growing strong with fans, followers and donation/sharing recipients getting on board daily. As if it couldn’t get any more exciting, we have upped the ante. Our new goal: 100,000 lbs to be donated/shared/gifted by March 31, 2010. Details are on the website In 45 days… who knows what good things will result from this effort.

So, regardless if we think vegan is good, no sugars, some sugars… whatever, we are reaching consumers with our fresh story. Ellen is an amazing, positive figure to MANY people and has a tremendous amount of fans. Turns out, many of them happen to love fresh produce and want to engage with the people growing and supplying it across the country (Interesting, huh?!).

Jim, I feel you have somewhat missed the essence of the “gold” here in your post… we don’t need 30 million dollars to make a difference. We just need to market and reach consumers differently than we have in the past if we are expecting different results. This is just one of thousands of ways to do it. We are committed to the effort!

Thank you again for the mention and I hope your future posts on our efforts are more reflective of the potential of grass roots marketing efforts for our space.

— Dan’l Mackey Almy
President and Managing Partner
DMA Solutions, Inc.
Dallas, Texas

That Dan’l is seeking to advance the interests of the trade is not in doubt, nor is the fact that Ellen DeGeneres is very popular. Certainly only good things can come about by fresh produce companies giving charity in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, as did Duda Farm Fresh Foods and its citrus grower Peace River Packing when they donated 2169 pounds of fresh Florida citrus to the RCMA Child Development Center in Bowling Green, Florida. We’ve previously written about the wonderful work of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association and you can read the piece here.

You can read a press release about Duda’s donation here. You can see a video describing the donation and featuring Sam Jones, Operations Manager, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, right here:

Other donations include 800 pounds of fresh jalapenos given to the Open Door Fellowship by Frontera Produce, 1,200 pounds of citrus fruit donated by Coast Produce Company to the Orange County Food Bank and Del Monte Fresh donated 2,020 pounds of lemons, bell peppers, tomatoes, grapes and bananas to the North Texas Food Bank

We are, of course, glad that Ellen mentioned her love for some fresh produce items. If we had known about it, we would have mentioned it. However, we are not certain it had anything to do with this effort as we have been monitoring Ellen’s “video diary” of her sugar-free journey and she hadn’t included it. She also didn’t claim the prize — which was the right to donate the produce to an organization of her choice.

Which is not to say she won’t. Dan’l was smart to start this effort because if you don’t try things you never know what could have happened.

Though, working with celebrities can be problematic… In fact, we are sort of wondering how deep Ellen’s commitment actually is to the whole sugar-free effort. Her video diary hasn’t been updated in two weeks as of this writing.

We did raise a concern about the scientific basis for what Ellen was saying. Although there are those who will say that any publicity is good publicity; in the long run we think that produce industry doesn’t want to associate itself with quackery.

We have a good story to tell and it has nothing to do with Ellen’s opinions that consuming agave nectar in her coffee offers some great benefit over sugar. We should tell the truth and align ourselves with good nutritional science. That is why we urged Dan’l, if she gets an invite on the show, to bring along Dr. Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Elizabeth is both a registered dietician and holds a doctorate in food and nutrition science. She also, and much to her credit, has never gone beyond the current state of knowledge in claiming benefits that fresh produce offers.

Ellen has indicated that she wants to bring someone knowledgeable about nutrition on her show. Why shouldn’t it be Dr. Pivonka? Rather than turning a blind eye to Ellen’s lack of nutritional knowledge, we should show our support of her quest for better health and try to help her address that quest in a scientific way. In doing so, we may actually persuade Ellen that the industry has value to contribute to her audience and thus get us a spot on her show. She is not hostile to science. As all visitors to EPCOT know, she is quite friendly with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Attacking “processed sugars” or “refined sugars” without explanation shows ignorance of chemistry. The advice of the American Dietetic Association is to avoid “added sugars.” In other words, Ellen should put neither sugar nor agave nectar in her coffee.

The argument for fresh produce consumption over added sugar is really two-fold: 1) All the other things in a piece of fruit, things such as fiber, make it unlikely that one will consume as many calories as one can by pouring sugar in coffee, and 2) The produce typically has other nutrients that contribute toward a healthy diet; sugar has nothing of the sort.

It is not a dissimilar argument to why weaning children from apple juice to apples is a step toward a healthy diet.

This all being said, it is important to note that a calorie is a calorie and in a world where obesity is the problem, the produce industry has to promote the consumption of Duda’s celery, Frontera’s hot peppers and Del Monte’s diversified vegetables as well as fresh fruit.

Dan’l ‘s enthusiasm for social media is contagious and, indeed, it is exciting to launch a Twitter channel or a Facebook page and see the followers and the friends and the fans all sign up. Dan’l’s reference to not needing $30 million to make a difference is a reference to the ill-fated generic promotion proposal, which was designed to raise $30 million for generic promotion.

We certainly believe in using social media to the max and an impression is an impression — but as to whether it can take the place of expensive mass media, we are going to wait awhile and file it under the category we call “Interesting, if true.”

To what degree the social interactions on Facebook actually are capable of moving the needle on consumption is completely unknown. Perhaps fans of such sites are already heavy consumers and we are preaching to the converted or, perhaps, the interaction is so slight and infrequent, it can’t change behavior. We just don’t know. The developers of the generic promotion program posited that social media, combined with traditional media, could have a powerful impact, indeed that it could reduce the cost of such campaigns. That seems to make sense — but there is precious little evidence to prove it.

Which is why we need pioneers like Dan’l, to boldly go where no produce man (or woman!) has gone before. Pioneers take some arrows, but they also lead us to new lands.

We hope Dan’l takes us to a fruitful one.

Many thanks to Dan’l Mackay Almy of DMA Solutions for helping us to discuss such forward-thinking issues.

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