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Industry Challenge To Lauren Scott,
PMA’s New Marketing Officer:
Can The Industry Produce Consistent Quality To Enable Effective Marketing?

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.

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