Living produce requires more promotional push

07/09/2012 08:17:00 AM
Melissa Shipman

The living produce category has seen recent growth, but there are plenty more ways to expand and promote the living produce category.

Marc Clark, executive vice president of Rocket Farms Inc., Salinas Calif., said his company is largely relying on social media to help reach the industry’s main target market.

“Gen X and Gen Y are a large part of who we try to reach, people who don’t have the big yard and wouldn’t have access to living produce any other way,” he said.

Clark says Rocket Farms has been active on Facebook and Twitter for four to five years, with Facebook offering the most interactions. However, Clark also is excited to see the company’s Pinterest page grow.

“With Pinterest, you can take a photograph and link it back to your website, which sends consumers right to the retailer. It’s just one more social connection, one more touch-point to interact. That’s super important,” he said.

Clark recognizes that interacting with consumers is critical because there’s still some confusion over the industry.

“It’s a tough issue. One of our main challenges is helping consumers understand that herbs are something you take inside and actually consume. Some people just want to plant it in the dirt outside,” he said.

He says this message is one that’s surprisingly difficult to convey.

“People see herbs at the garden center or at Home Depot, so we have to use a lot of shelf talkers and point-of-sale materials, even training with store managers to have a successful programs,” he said.

Clark says he knows of some companies that use in-store demonstrations and sampling, even though that can be difficult to sustain financially because it’s such a small category.

Still, he says the economic downturn has helped increase demand for living produce, a trend that began in Europe, where sales are still much higher.

“People want fresh and local food, and you can’t get any more local than living produce,” he said.

Serena Leiterman, marketing brand manager for North Shore Sales and Marketing Inc., Thermal, Calif., said her company encourages retail promotions and cross-promotions that change with the seasons.

“There are always basil promotions during the summertime, but we’re trying to get retailers to think outside the box a little more. It doesn’t always have to be a promotion with basil and tomatoes. We want to see what response comes from other creative pairings,” Leiterman said.


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