Ag department programs promote Colorado produce - The Packer

Ag department programs promote Colorado produce

08/05/2010 03:09:52 PM
Susie Cable

Marketers in Colorado encourage residents to show pride in the state by purchasing local produce and other food items.

“There’s big support for Colorado-grown product in Colorado,” said Joshua Johnson, president of Ringer & Son Brokerage Co. Inc., Commerce City, Colo. “Consumers support the local produce markets very well.”

Colorado Proud is a Colorado Department of Agriculture marketing program.

Data from a 2009 survey showed that about two-thirds of the participants were familiar with the Colorado Proud logo, and more than half said they now look more often for the logo when shopping, said Wendy White, marketing specialist in the Colorado Department of Agriculture Markets Division.

Colorado Proud began in 1999 with 65 business members. It now has more than 1,300 members, including growers, associations, processors, restaurateurs and retailers, White said.

She said she estimates that 300 are produce growers, including large- and small-scale producers.

Membership is free and businesses can register online at Colorado MarketMaker, http://co.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.

Members can use the Colorado Proud logo on websites, cartons, stickers and wherever else they want to use it to promote their Colorado-grown produce.

Mike Gibson, sales manager for United Marketing Exchange, Delta, Colo., said the Colorado Proud program helps sell local produce. The state’s retailers want to carry local produce, so they support the program, he said.

Many Colorado retailers are supportive of the program, White said. For example, Safeway participates in Colorado Proud television advertisements, and The Kroger Co.’s King Soopers often features the logo in weekly ad inserts.

Fagerberg Produce Co., Eaton, Colo., is a member of Colorado Proud, said Alan Kinoshita, sales manager, but because most of the company’s customers are longtime buyers, using the logo might not affect its sales much.

Richard Kinser, manager of Rogers Mesa Fruit Co. Inc., Hotchkiss, Colo., said his company has benefited from being a Colorado Proud member, and he thinks the program in general is successful.

Colorado Proud

Colorado Proud is to partner with the Colorado Chefs Association, Denver, and Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, Littleton, Colo., to host a first-time event, “Feast in the Field,” on Aug. 16.

The event, which is part of Colorado Proud Month, is designed to celebrate local agriculture and raise funds for the association’s education fund and for the gardens.

Wendy White said chefs will be paired with Colorado Proud growers and producers to create dishes for an expected 300 attendees. She said the event will feature melons, peaches, greens, potatoes, sweet corn and other fresh produce.

Tickets will cost $100, with VIP tickets available for $150.

Other Colorado Proud Month promotional activities include news releases, television advertisements and point-of-display banners and logos in supermarkets.

On Sept. 8, in cooperation with the state’s education department, the agriculture department plans to promote Colorado Proud School Meal Day to educate children about the state’s agriculture and about eating healthfully, White said. The department has materials and videos available for schools’ use, and it can arrange demonstrations and guest speakers.

Colorado Proud relies on money from grants and the state’s unclaimed property interest fund. It has $150,000 budgeted for television advertising and $25,000 budgeted to develop a new retail merchandising program, White said. The retail program was in its earliest planning stages in June, so White couldn’t provide details, but said the goal will be to increase the program’s visibility in stores.

Colorado pavilion

Tim Larsen, senior international marketing specialist, Colorado Department of Agriculture Markets Division, said he’s working on plans for a pavilion at Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in October. This will be the third time Colorado has had a pavilion at the convention, he said.

Larsen said one goal is to build Colorado’s local, national and international reputations as a major fresh fruit and vegetable producing state. The pavilion should help growers find qualified international buyers in a time-efficient and low-cost manner. Larsen said there’s a potential to reach 2,000 international buyers at Fresh Summit.

The 2008 and 2009 pavilions helped generate $60,000 in international sales at Fresh Summit, and $400,000 in international sales during the following 12 months. A company or association booth within the pavilion will cost $2,950.

He said he hopes the pavilion will feature Colorado-grown Rocky Ford cantaloupe, which has been grown in the state since the 1890s.

MarketMaker

Colorado MarketMaker is a partnership between the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado State University’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. It’s a search site for consumers, restaurateurs, retailers, wholesalers and other buyers interested in finding Colorado fresh produce and other foods.

Visitors to the site can search by type of business, food item, and details about items. A search produces a list of businesses with links to e-mail addresses, websites, maps and detailed information. Colorado Proud members have the program’s logo next to their business name.

MarketMaker users can search for market data from the U.S. Census and from other surveys. For example, with a few clicks, the site will bring up a state map featuring the dollar amounts of average home expenditures on fruits and vegetables. Another couple of clicks will display expenditure averages at the county level. Another search will add business locations to the map.

The site debuted last summer, but hasn’t been promoted extensively because it was still a work in progress, White said. Eventually, a MarketMaker training program and materials will be developed for state extension agents so they can train others to use the system.

Colorado MarketMaker is one of more than a dozen states that participate in the National MarketMaker Partnership.

Grower efforts

The Onion House LLC, Weslaco, Texas, ships Colorado-grown onions from Buffalo Packing, Olathe, Colo. Don Ed Holmes, owner, The Onion House, said the company is developing a new 40-pound carton to promote sweet and mild Colorado onions. He said he thinks local retail chains in Colorado are supportive of buying local.

Kinoshita said Fagerberg advertises in trade newspapers, but doesn’t do much else to promote its crops. It sells primarily to a loyal customer base, he said.

“We pride ourselves on service and quality,” he said. “We feel that they’ll keep coming back.”

Strohauer Farms, La Salle, Colo., advertises in a trade newspaper and at Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit convention, said Harry Strohauer, president and owner.

Ringer & Son does some advertising, but most of its publicity is via word of mouth, Johnson said. It does most of its business with local customers, including local Kroger and Albertson’s locations.

Rogers Mesa also relies heavily on word of mouth publicity, Kinser said.

“Once (consumers) find that Colorado fruit is available, their mouths just water,” he said.

Colorado fruit sells because of its flavor, Gibson said.

“I think it’s our flavor,” he said. “With the cool nights and warm days, we produce good-tasting fruit.”



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