Local produce needs strategic positioning

08/23/2013 10:19:00 AM
Denise Donohue

For the produce packer-shipper, this means matching the item to the buyer regardless of whether it is locally grown or not. Stem-on tart cherries probably don’t belong in a value store.

And if they get there — and they don’t sell — it is not a proper conclusion to say consumers don’t want fresh, stem-on tart cherries. They were just positioned incorrectly in a value store.

Which brings me back to my shout-out at the local grocery.

In this particular case, the retailer, aided by a well-meaning study, brought on a line of at least 50 items that I dubbed not-ready-for-prime-time items. The products were expensive and boutique-ish. They had names like “Cherries Foster,” which left my husband and me whispering amongst ourselves (so as not to appear like rubes) to determine if it was jelly or preserves or ice cream topping.

Turns out it contained rum — a good thing, but it sure didn’t belong on the kids’ breakfast toast, if you know what I mean. Alcohol before school is not, to paraphrase Martha Stewart, a good thing.

Nor would you pay $6 (the original price) to put this before kids. Pearls before swine, you know.

As a shopper, I want mostly familiar products. I don’t want off-brand potato chips, and I sure don’t want soda pop of an unknown variety. But I would like to know if my regular chips and pop have local content. It’s not that I don’t like the local aspect of off-brand chips — it’s my fear of the unknown and wasting money.

If you’re launching something new (a.k.a. not-quite-prime-time-but-hoping-to-be products), you’d better launch in the right stores and put some demos in place.

Addressing consumers’ fear of the unknown through proper market placement and position gives your item a much better opportunity to succeed.

Denise Donohue is founder of Donohue Associates, DeWitt, Mich., a marketing and public relations firm specializing in agriculture. Before that, she was director of the Michigan Apple Committee, Lansing.

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