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Marketing Of California Leafy Greens Seal Will Cause Consumer Confusion

Scott Horsfall, who we congratulated when he was appointed as CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, proved himself a dynamic presenter and well informed leader when he participated in a workshop at PMA’s Foodservice Conference focused on food safety.

Yet he also raised a point about the use of the mark or insignia of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement that raised real concerns about the future of the Agreement.

At this stage there is no problem, Scott explained that the insignia would be used on letterhead and invoices and things of that sort. Yet, he also said the expectation is that the insignia will be used in the future on consumer packaging and will be advertised to consumers.

This is most problematic.

We’ve dealt with the issue of the seal before here, here and here and on a substantive basis we are concerned.

Consumer promotion of the seal or mark would be ill-advised for several reasons:

  1. The seal can only be used on California product. For several months the fresh-cut operations move to Yuma — which is not in the State of California. You can’t turn on and off consumer confidence in this manner.
  2. The seal can only be used on items that are 100% California product. So if Dole brings in iceberg for its new plant but has 2% locally grown product in there, Dole couldn’t use the seal. If a processor in Salinas uses a little Italian radicchio, he can’t use the seal. If we have rain and bring in some Dutch cabbage, that product can’t use the seal. This one week on, one week off, yes in one place, no in another, can only confuse consumers.
  3. The seal can only be used on leafy greens, so training consumers to look for the Seal will lead them to doubt the food safety of other products — why don’t oranges, tomatoes, peaches, apples, potatoes — why don’t all these items have the seal?

So from a standpoint of consumer marketing and education the use of the seal is ill-advised.

But there is more: Fresh Express joined the marketing agreement at the very last moment after getting assurances that the program would not be used in such a way that it implied an equivalency between all signatories. Other handlers, such as Dole, have to be deeply concerned with how the presence of a seal on some product will affect consumer attitudes toward other products.

We think it very likely that if the board tries to turn this program into a consumer promotion program, it will confuse consumers and alienate members.

And it would only take the loss of one large member to bring the credibility of the effort into question.

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