As marketers, we know that health is a unique product benefit and differentiator for fruits and vegetables.
Industry surveys confirm that the No. 1 reason people eat fruits and vegetables is to stay healthy.
By harnessing the power of the health message, each of these commodities has positioned its product as a “superfood” and consumers have sought them out, overcoming barriers of price, taste and convenience.
Despite two decades of government — and Non-Governmental Organization-led initiatives that have successfully built awareness that fruits and vegetables are “healthy for you,” the produce industry and its advocates haven’t ever developed and sustained a strategic and creative category-wide marketing initiative to leverage and convert that health awareness into increased daily per-capita consumption.
The result is more than 20 years without a meaningful increase.
According to PMA Chief Executive Officer Bryan Silbermann, as quoted in Moss’s piece, “We thought that if we talked for a long-enough time about people needing to eat more healthfully, they would miraculously change their eating habits.”
But as we all know, just talking about something is not the same as really doing something about it.
Silbermann is further quoted, “But the way you get there is using mainstream marketing techniques to get people to behave in a healthful way without knowing it. The processed food marketers manipulate the public. We haven’t spent nearly enough time in the produce industry adapting those techniques and thinking about what really motivates people.”
From our point of view, the key is not the manipulation but the “what really motivates people” part.
Taste, convenience, price or TV characters are not likely to be what truly motivates people to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
The true motivator is, and likely will remain, the health benefits.
If we agree that there is ample awareness that fruits and vegetables are important for better health, yet consumption remains between one-third and one-half of recommended daily levels, then clearly there are marketing conversion steps necessary to move people from passive awareness to active achievement.
Triggering that passive awareness at every shopping trip and eating occasion, and converting it to action, is the real marketing challenge.