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Pundit’s Mailbag — Got Produce? Advantage Goes To Convenient Produce

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 4, 2009

Our extensive coverage of the proposal for a Generic Produce Promotion program often brings kind words:

Good job on shining some light on a cloudy subject.

— Chuck Zambito
Owner
Zambito Produce Sales
West Deptford, New Jersey

Sometimes, though, we receive questions that find an intersection between the proposed generic promotion program and marketing dilemmas of the contemporary produce industry:

We are in a microwave age.

Consumers will not buy most products unless they are really convenient to serve and eat.

Looking at the generic program presented, it appears that the only items being helped by generic advertising are already more in demand because of their easy-to-use nature. Grapes, strawberries and such are doing very well on their own.

What about some of the products that are some of the best nutrition- and health-wise, but are being thrown by the wayside because they are more difficult to serve and eat? Pears and plums, peaches and nectarines are good examples.

— Julian Lipschitz

(Mr. Lipschitz had worked at Hemphill and Wilson Enterprises, Selma, California, then spent approximately a decade at Fruit Patch Sales Co. in Dinuba, California, where he was Sales Manager. His most recent duties were in the sales department at Dayka & Hackett LLC in Reedley, California.)

Julian has his finger on a vitally important issue, both health-wise and marketing-wise.

Many of the initiatives of the produce industry, such as plans to have free produce in schools and inoffices, are nominally about produce but seem actually to be about snack fruits of some sort.

This is one of the reasons why United’s new initiative to place a salad bar in every school is so fantastic… it not only will expand produce sales and consumption but provides a tool for sampling of many of the vegetables that are so nutritious but not suitable for the other program.

Julian points out that the move to convenience products disadvantages even some fruits. He might have pointed out that some items — particularly pineapple — has benefited enormously from the marketing of fresh-cut fruit, whereas other items, such as stone fruits, have not been able to use the technology to create more appealing products.

What Julian also brings to the surface is the marketing conundrum of trying to effectively market all this variety in a persuasive message.

It is not widely recognized the degree to which the proposal for a generic produce promotion program is different — in kind and not just degree — from all existing programs.

There is no national protein board selling chicken, beef, pork, fish etc. All the other mandatory boards derive from one base product — a cow, a pig, an egg, etc. This makes the producers, though anxious for results, mostly indifferent to what precisely is being promoted. They can leave that to the marketing team.

Should such a broad board be established, Produce will be taking a leap into the great unknown. It will face both a political problem — how to keep the constituencies that represent all these varied items happy — and a substantive problem — what is the best message to tie together all of these items?

It means that should we ever pass the program, the challenges for the trade would just be beginning.

Many thanks to both Chuck Zambito and Julian Lipshitz for weighing in on the issue of generic promotion.

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