Marketing strategies for organics evolve to keep up with savvy consumers

01/15/2010 03:07:43 PM
Jim Offner

Marketing organics isn’t just about touting a lack of pesticide residue, growers, shippers and marketing agents say.

Not anymore, anyway.

“Organic producers tend to have a deeper connection with their consumers because their consumers innately care more about how and where and by whom their food was produced than other consumers,” said Samantha Cabuluna, communication director for San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm.

“Like everyone else, organic producers have to find new ways to connect with consumers and share information because the channels for delivering information are changing and proliferating.”

The changing dynamics of the business have required new marketing plans, said Steve Taft, owner of Temecula, Calif.-based Eco-Farms.

“I think they’re patterning the commercial side of the business — long-term commitments, ad pricing — a lot of stuff that years ago was nonexistent on the organic side,” Taft said. “They’re seeing a lot of that. At retail you have long-term commitments that a few years ago were unheard of.”

Marketing strategies have had to evolve just to keep up with a consumer base that knows more about the product than before, said Matt Stocks, organic vegetable buyer for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets organics under the Melissa’s label.

“They’re getting extremely sophisticated,” Stocks said.

Organics companies welcome the challenge, he added.

“The more knowledge, the better,” he said. “The consumer is getting more educated, and we continue to educate them.”

He said people who buy organics feel they have a good understanding of the category.

“So the more information we can give them so they’re happy about their purchase, the better chance we are going to have in building a repeat customer,” Stocks said.

Organics customers also are looking for more choices now than ever before,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.

“More and more, the organic consumer is looking for the newer varieties of product,” Pepperl said.

“They tend to be produce lovers in general, so they like the new-car-on-the-lot-type items. Where it used to be reds and golds and grannies, now it’s Piñata, Pink Ladies, braeburns. And the pear categories are organic.”

Organics consumers know just what they want, so the message behind the products has to reach that level of sophistication, Pepperl noted.

“You’re looking for a consumer that’s buying on flavor,” he said. “Prices have narrowed, too, although there’s still a premium.”


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