Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy Chief
Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy Chief

The announcement that The Nunes Co. will promote its Foxy brand organic products on the public TV program “America’s Test Kitchen” has me pretty excited.

It’s not because I am into bow ties and suspenders like the host of the cooking program.

“America’s Test Kitchen” is a half-hour cooking program running on public television stations since 2001.

The host is Christopher Kimball, founder and editor-in-chief of Cook’s Illustrated, a magazine that publishes tested recipes with detailed instructions and evaluations of kitchen equipment and branded foods and ingredients.

The TV program reports on its website that it is the top-rated cooking program on public television, drawing 2.2 million viewers per weekly episode.

As a side note, I find the Cook’s Illustrated/“America’s Test Kitchen” saga interesting. Kimball founded Cook’s Illustrated magazine in 1980, sold it in 1990 to Conde Nast, which immediately ceased publishing it to clear out competition for the now-defunct Gourmet magazine.

Kimball reacquired the rights to the name and started up again in 1993.

Sometimes it seems produce marketing gets bogged down in package graphics or the miracle of modified-atmosphere storage and other technological marvels, important as they are.

Foxy organic line seems good fit for TV showThis tie-in, however, seems to rise above the technical aspects of marketing.

Here we are latching onto a lifestyle image and lifting a product from its dreary particulars.

The Salinas, Calif.-based grower-shipper a couple of years ago cross-promoted itself with the Julia Roberts movie “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Some 10 million heads of Foxy iceberg lettuce carried a $5 rebate offer on the movie DVD over a seven-week period. Consumers who bought two heads of lettuce and the DVD got $5 by mailing proofs of purchase.

This sponsorship differs in a couple of ways.

One, instead of heads of iceberg lettuce The Nunes Co. is promoting its Foxy-brand organic products. Second, this promotion could have some staying power.

“One of the things we really like about this program is it’s not a one-off. It’s something that will last all of 2013,” said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for The Nunes Co.

While there are many cooking shows to consider sponsoring, this one seems a better fit for Foxy organic products, Seeley said.

The consumers who likely would be drawn to Foxy organic lettuce and vegetables generally have higher incomes and have attained higher levels of education than other consumers groups. That lines up particularly well with the cooking-enthusiast viewers of the no-nonsense, educational “America’s Test Kitchen.”

“The habits and (demographic) profile of ‘America’s Test Kitchen’ viewers lined up with those of the organic consumer,” Seeley said.

In some ways, “America’s Test Kitchen” is a toned-down version of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” Food Network television show, which ended its run in February. “America’s Test Kitchen” includes science segments like “Good Eats” did and mixes explanation of cooking techniques with preparing recipes, but the style is not as gonzo as Brown’s production.

Kimball, wearing his bow tie and suspenders, talks to cooks and experts, leaving most of the on-air cooking to others.

With the “America’s Test Kitchen” cross-promotion, there will be on-air and online sponsorship segments for Foxy products. Foxy organic product packaging will carry the TV program’s logo.

After the first of the year, Seeley and his crew are working on a contest by which consumers can win a trip to see the “America’s Test Kitchen” facility in Brookline, Mass. That contest will be advertised on the Web and social media venues.

The Nunes Co. also plans to play host to a trade event for retail and wholesale customers after the first of the year, Seeley said.

The Nunes Co. is not the first produce marketing organization to take advantage of the “America’s Test Kitchen” opportunity. Watch episodes from this season and you see spots promoting California avocados.

The California Avocado Commission has sponsored “America’s Test Kitchen” for two years, and does not sponsor any other TV cooking program.

The commission is negotiating for a third year but no agreement has been struck, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based commission.

“Through research, we have found our consumers have a high interest in cooking for fun and entertaining,” Delyser said.

So “America’s Test Kitchen” is a good fit in that regard with the consumers the California Avocado Commission is trying to attract.

The commission reaches consumers via the “America’s Test Kitchen” website and social media outlets. The multiple venues for making contact with consumers help the commission build its brand and drive sales, DeLyser said.

“The association with America’s Test Kitchen has also helped us support our message that California avocados are a premium product through our placement in their ‘premium’ environment,” DeLyser said.

It seems like a good fit for both of these organizations.

It’s good to see that the wine company and kitchen equipment sponsors have to move over for some produce marketing.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.