The Georgia Grown program is working to educate Georgians about how much of the produce they consume originates in their state.
Introduced last year, the program works help retailers and restaurants source and identify Georgia produce.
JH Harvey Co. LLC, Nashville, Ga., was the first chain to join the program and Matthew Kulinski, deputy director of marketing for the Georgia Department of Agriculture in Atlanta, said more chains are joining.
The program provides support including photos and biographies of growers and other information to help supermarkets spotlight Georgia produce, he said.
He said the agency is attracting interest from other retailers as well.
In February, the agency started a Georgia Grown restaurant program.
Working with the Georgia Restaurant Association, the effort provides logos restaurants can use on their menus to show consumers when they’re serving items featuring Georgia produce, Kulinski said.
Kulinski pointed to an Atlanta restaurant in the Virginia Highland suburb that uses the logo to clearly identify Georgia products.
The program is also working with corporate cafeterias, including Cox Communication’s corporate headquarters in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody, Ga., Kulinski said.
Sodexo Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., services Cox’s five corporate cafeterias. Kulinski said the foodservice provider is eager to showcase Georgia products.
“Most Georgians are aware of Georgia peaches and Vidalia onions,” Kulinski said.
“But they’re not aware of the blueberries that are now big, corn and even apples. They want to buy Georgia products. It’s the low-hanging fruit we’re trying to take care of first.
“They’re already buying Georgia blueberries and they want to buy them. It’s simply not identified as Georgia blueberries. They have no idea what they’re buying. We’re really informing the consumer that they can make better purchasing decisions.”
To help with that state identification, Kulinski said the agency is working with a major watermelon shipper to develop special cartons that identify the watermelons as Georgia Grown.
The Peach State is planning some retail promotions to remind shoppers about the summer availability of one of Georgia’s signature crops.
The Byron-based Georgia Peach Council is focusing on brand promotion.
According to research, Georgia’s peaches rate highly with consumers.
The industry supports the brand by harvesting peaches of high enough quality to encourage shoppers to return to stores, said council president Duke Lane III, vice president of sales with Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Ga.
Lane said the industry is working with a Tampa, Fla., marketing firm to conduct consumer public relations activities including launching a Facebook program.
The Georgia in July program plans to promote the state’s peaches with select retail partners, Lane said.
The promotion will try to merchandise peaches through bin wraps, farm market bags and a retail tool kit as well as in-store radio, Lane said.
“We’re finding retail partners in different areas of the country to be the industry leader of Georgia peaches in those markets,” Lane said.
“What we’re trying to do is drive consumers to the stores and let them know when peaches are available at their best. When they go to the stores, the messages will reiterate they’re at the peak of their season.”
The retail promotions are scheduled to run July 10 through early August.
Council marketing director Will McGehee, sales manager for the Genuine Georgia Group and Pearson Farm, Fort Valley, said the efforts pay dividends.
“Georgia growers are doing a lot of work to bring Georgia peaches to the retailers,” he said.
“If they plan to commit to Georgia peaches on ad, we have to supply them. We feel there’s a lot of brand equity in Georgia’s peaches. We can’t say enough about the optimism leading into this year. We have a lot of programs lined up.”