The Pride of New York program is being dealt a financial blow, but staff is confident that better and more creative marketing techniques will come out of the resulting changes.
“We are at the mercy of the budget gods these days,” said Bill Kimball, director of the Division of Agricultural Protection and Development Services for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Although Kimball said the budget was not yet final as of early July, he was planning for less than $500,000 in state funds, which represents a cut of about 50%.
Gone are the days of the nearly $1-million state funding that funded expensive television commercials, radio ads and billboards. Instead, Pride of New York is focusing its resources on working with individual distributors and institutions. Kimball said they’ve had particularly good luck with school food service distributors such as Sodexho Inc. and Chartwells.
“We’re having good success with these companies wanting to feature local products on their menus,” he said.
Phil Bibbo, marketing specialist for the Pride of New York program, continues to work one-on-one with supermarket buyers to help them source local products. The program continues to do marketing events and to support retailers with point-of-sales material upon request.
Jessica Chittenden, director of communications for the agriculture department, said up to 20 retailers are expected to participate this year with the Pride of New York program. Last year, 13 participated.
Some good news
The Pride of New York program continues to work with national and regional distributors to encourage them to “Buy local. Buy Pride of New York.” Sysco Food Services of Syracuse LLC represents a recent success story, Kimball said. It is now distributing Pride of New York-labeled products. Although Sysco likely carried New York-produced items in the past, the company is now intentionally marketing items as Pride of New York products.
“They’ve actually trained staff to identify Pride of New York categories of produce,” Kimball said.
Within the past month, “Pride of New York” became a category on the Syracuse division’s order form, Kimball said.
Kimball also said the state continues to participate in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs, which is associated with the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC provides vouchers for fruits and vegetables, and New York enabled them to be used to buy from certified growers at farmers markets. Kimball said the program should make about $30 million available to be spent in the state.