As is the case so many times, some of the produce industry’s top stories for the year are more about what didn’t happen than what did.
Case in point: 2009 had the makings to be a monumental year for marketing, with discussion of a national promotion board, and Produce for Better Health perhaps playing a major role with that.
But the next step toward a national fruit and vegetable research and promotion board — if there is one — won’t be taken with PBH, the industry learned in November.
The executive committee for Wilmington, Del.-based PBH concluded any decisions should be made by those most affected by the potential board.
From April to October, the foundation had sought feedback from the fruit and vegetable industry about the potential of a national promotion board, organized with U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight and funded with mandatory assessments.
After a variety of outreach efforts to the industry, PBH officials say their role is over.
PBH chairman Paul Klutes, director of brand sales for C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., said the group acted as a catalyst to spark the discussion for and against the promotion board, but the ultimate responsibility lies with those who would be assessed.
Klutes said some industry leaders want to continue the conversation, but he did not say who those individuals or groups might be.
He said PBH is finding new and effective ways to promote the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters message.
Elizabeth Pivonka, PBH president and chief executive officer, said she doesn’t know if the discussion about the generic promotion board will continue.
“I have talked to some members of the industry who are interested generally in the concept,” she said. “We’re willing to share information with any of those folks, but it is their responsibility now.”
Pivonka said she has no regrets about the process of the PBH involvement in exploring the issue.
“We just thought it was important to raise the question and have the dialogue,” Pivonka said.
She said discussion of the generic promotion board by PBH has had a mixed effect on fundraising.
“I think it is probably a wash,” Pivonka said, with about $20,000 withheld by contributors who didn’t like PBH’s role in the dialogue and another $20,000 that came in to the group because contributors appreciated the service PBH was doing for the industry.
An Oct. 3 Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit town hall meeting on the proposed national generic promotion plan, moderated by The Packer’s Tom Karst, focused on the pros and cons of a national promotion board.