Retailers across Ohio are demanding local produce, and they’re getting it.
The state department of agriculture’s Ohio Proud program piloted a produce-focused promotion, Oh So Fresh, this year for grocers.
The program was fueled by a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Nate Filler, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus-based Ohio Grocers Association.
“This campaign started in late April, early May, running through the summer, to market Ohio specialty crops,” he said.
A website, www.ohsofresh.org, featured logos, signs, surveys, facts and other information about Ohio produce.
“In doing that, it’s beyond some social media and marketing,” Filler said.
The program involved in-store product sampling and information on Ohio-raised fruits and vegetables, Filler said.
“Truthfully, as people use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, we’re trying to make sure they have access to this information about Ohio products and bring them into purchasing decisions,” he said.
The program ran through the end of the summer, so Filler said he didn’t yet have any information on how well the program did, or whether it will return next year.
“We’re kind of guinea pigs here,” he said. “Folks were taking surveys and different things just simply saying if it was more likely that they’d buy the Ohio produce.”
The USDA wants to see if there was much of a return on its investment, Filler said.
“USDA was interested to see what are the quantifiable numbers, whether folks (are) more likely to buy the local products if we brand them as such,” he said.
“Chains do a really good job of pointing out fresh local produce.”
Stores already do a good job of displaying local product prominently, Filler said.
“If they needed anything beyond the signage, they could get a dangler to hang from the ceiling. We couldn’t do shelf talkers like we do on the aisles because produce is on open display cases,” Filler said.
The program also featured banners, photos and other messages on the website and Facebook pages, Filler said.
“We’re also able to run just a little radio, small ads, to promote Ohio-grown produce,” he said.
Produce suppliers said they helped.
“We do a fair amount of packaged produce into the retail outlets, and we identify it as Ohio if it is Ohio,” said Tony DiNovo, president of Columbus-based wholesaler DNO Inc.