Chuck Robinson, assistant copy chief
Chuck Robinson, assistant copy chief

Heavy hitters like the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval and the Royals’ Billy Butler in the World Series get the crowd revved up and make the game interesting.

Royals, you came so close.

Some advertisers took some big swings too during the telecast of the games, and I was glad to see the produce industry was in the rotation, thanks to Whole Foods and Wal-Mart.

Right there with the commercials for Budweiser and Cialis, Whole Foods kicked off its first national advertising campaign with its first 60-second TV spot.

Whole Foods’ values

Whole Foods is feeling the heat from its competitors. Wal-Mart is putting price pressure on sales of organic products, and Sprouts Farmers Markets, which has been aggressively expanding since going public in August 2013, has been doing the same.

Same-store sales growth for Whole Foods has been reported to be slowing, and in July Whole Foods announced it was going on the offensive.

In addition to the ads, it is cutting prices (starting with with a pilot program involving stores in the area of its headquarters, Austin, Texas) and adding stores and updating older stores.

The gist of the ad was that it matters to consumers where their food comes from. Mixed in with the ocean and cattle shots were pictures of an orange harvest, pomegrantes on the tree and carrots and turnips freshly dug with dirt still clinging to them.

“We want to know where our food comes from. We care about what happens to it along the way,” said the earnest young lady during the ad’s voiceover.

“We want the people and animals and the places our food comes from to be treated fairly.”

“This is where values matter,” was the tagline of the video.

Jeannine D’Addario, Whole Foods’ new global vice president of communication, said during an interview aired on NPR on Oct. 21 that the company is targeting 25- to 49-year-old socially conscious consumers who “care about their health, care about quality products and really want the information about where their food comes from.”

Wal-Mart’s evolving message

Wal-Mart didn’t let Whole Foods attend its national coming out party alone.

It aired an ad featuring Jason and Trever Meachum of High Acres Fruit Farm, Hartford, Mich., and beautiful apple orchard shots.

“They help us deliver some of the freshest apples in Michigan. Backed by their 100% money-back guarantee,” said one of the Meachum brothers.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced its own “values” messaging last year by increasing its support of locally grown fresh produce. The High Acres Fruit Farm ad certainly fits with that.

In April, Wal-Mart announced it was relaunching the Wild Oats brand and offering more affordably priced organic products.

Over the summer, Wal-Mart announced its goals to encourage sustainability and in early October doubled down on its sustainability pledge. Working with is suppliers, Wal-Mart plans to track and report the progress of creating a sustainable food system through its Climate Smart Agriculture Platform.

Over the coming decade the retail giant has promised to promote the best practices of sustainable agriculture and to openly track agricultural yields, greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

High Acres Fruit Farms is one of 11 grower-partners of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., Sparta, Mich.

Don Armock, president of Riveridge, said Riveridge had proposed four family operations to Wal-Mart to represent Michigan apple growers.

“They chose the Meachums, which was a great choice as they have been suppliers to Wal-Mart for nearly as long as there have been Supercenters,” Armock said.

“They are top producers, good stewards of the land and astute, innovative businessmen. We are proud to be associated with them.”

You always take notice when heavy hitters come to the plate, so it was great to see a couple sluggers coming to bat at the World Series and promoting fresh produce.

While it sounds like condolences that might be offered to a losing team and its supporters to say “at least you made it this far,” it’s nonetheless true.

We made it to the big game. Too often produce gets sidelined or gets stuck in the minors or even the semi-pro leagues. Getting into the lineup at this level is awesome.

I dream of the day when the big three World Series advertisers will be Budweiser, Cialis and fresh produce.

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