Doug OhlemeierBryan Silbermann, left, president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, and Jeff Dunn, chief executive officer of Bolthouse Farms, discuss how the produce industry can market products head-on with junk food at PMA’s Fresh Summit 2013 Oct. 18 in New Orleans.NEW ORLEANS — Produce Marketing Association’s Bryan Silbermann challenged Fresh Summit 2013 attendees to consider using new ways to market new produce products to consumers.
During his annual “state of the industry” speech, PMA’s president and chief executive officer said the organization serves as a bridge to innovation with one foot in the present and the other stretched into the future.
He cited lessons learned from innovators in other industries including Steve Jobs and Amazon.com’s success at delivering almost anything.
While the produce industry isn’t the world of Silicon Valley, Silbermann said the industry can learn much from such masters of innovation.
“Whether it’s technology tools driving us to engage our customers on their turf in social media, or new online marketplaces that are changing the way people shop for food, now is the time to take lessons from the leaders,” Silbermann said Oct. 18. “The world of food distribution and marketing is changing faster than we can imagine.”
Commenting on this year’s Impact Awards for packaging excellence, Silbermann noted increasing attention being given to marketing to children and the focus on single-serve snack-ready items.
He said the industry should focus on the next dream vs. the “me-too” products.
“The smart marketers in our industry already get this,” Silbermann said. “Our own smart apple growers and marketers already have brought out new varieties, sliced apples, apple fries. I can’t wait to see what’s next up their sleeves. The best produce marketers are reinventing what they offer and making an opportunity out of a commodity.”
Silbermann incorporated into his speech conversations with others on how the industry can benefit from changing societal trends including the push for healthy eating.
Jeff Dunn, chief executive officer of Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield, Calif., talked on stage with Silbermann about how produce companies and growers can invest in marketing to compete with junk food.
He said the industry is building a best practices toolkit that any produce company can use to market products without expensive advertising campaigns.
“If you expect grower-shippers to do it on their own, it just won’t happen,” Dunn said. “The junk food people are doing too good a job creating innovation in their categories. For produce, this is a moment in time not only to catch up with them but there’s this need to create the cross-industry partnerships that will allow this to come to scale much faster.”
Sam Kass, senior policy advisor on nutrition for the First Lady Michelle Obama and executive director of Let’s Move!,
addressed the audience via telephone.
“This room represents one of the most important pillars of the nation’s health,” Kass said. “We have a real vested interest to ensure more people are eating more fruits and vegetables. Our goals could not be more aligned.”
The industry need to join in effort to better market fresh produce, he said.
“You guys are producing the most tremendously beautiful delicious products in the market, but right now, we’re really suffering because we’re not investing the same kind of energy, science and intellectual resources and capital into inspiring our kids.”
Touching on another societal change, Silbermann challenged the produce industry to follow society as a whole and add more women in management roles.
“Attracting, developing and retaining more women in leadership positions in our companies is good for business, good for your bottom line and good for the sustainability of your companies,” he said. “I must ask, have we in our industry understood and embraced these changes? Have we made our companies welcoming and nurturing for women? Have we used the insight of female executives to better understand what motivates people who still make most of the food purchasing decisions?”