BELLE GLADE, Fla. — For the first time, Florida sweet corn growers are using a branded corn to help retailers run promotions and drive consumer loyalty.

Florida corn growers launching new brandMembers of the Florida Sweet Corn Exhange, Maitland, are rolling out the Sunshine Sweet brand (with “Fresh from the Sunshine State” slogan) to retailers, ahead of promotable volume in April.

The Exchange, which represents about 95% of Florida’s spring corn, plans to place U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors on shippers’ docks to ensure only fancy corn ships under the label, said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op. All shippers in the program must be third-party certified, he said.

“We want shoppers to get beyond the ‘corn is corn’ thought process,” Biederman said. “We want to guarantee quality and differentiate ourselves.”

Exchange members plan to market specific premium varieties selected for high sugar and improved flavor, said Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee.

“Like any brand, there is a certain quality expectation,” he said. “If the shopper doesn’t have a favorable experience, (the shopper) may not buy more.

“If we consistently deliver a high quality ear of sweet corn to the consumer and everyone else in the distribution chain has done his part to get it there, the product basically sells itself on repeat business,” Bergmann said.

The Exchange plans to introduce the label in a month-long promotion that begins in mid-April when Florida’s spring volume hits.

The new label ties into the Exchange’s “Fun in the Sun” consumer supermarket sweepstakes that offers shoppers a chance to win one of 25 stays at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa on the Atlantic Ocean in Palm Beach County, where most of Florida’s fall and spring corn grows. Other prizes include Bose wireless speakers and iPhone gift cards.

The Exchange plans to post contest details and other information on the brand's website, said Jason Stemm, associate vice president of the New York-based Lewis & Neale Inc., the Exchange’s marketing and public relations firm.

The promotion includes retailer training and point-of-sale materials, a billboard campaign and a focus on social media, Stemm said.