Recovering from the devastating blow that was the freeze-wrecked winter and spring of 2010, Florida’s produce marketing muscle remains on the job persuading retailers to prominently promote and feature Florida growers’ produce.

In its 10th year, the state’s Fresh from Florida logo is seen in store displays and in weekly advertisements in stores around the world and throughout North America.

Florida promotions remain strong throughout the world

Providing incentives to retailers to run ads that feature the Fresh from Florida logo on Florida produce, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ division of marketing plans to continue the momentum for the 2010-11 season.

Though the number of individual store ads declined, Dan Sleep, a marketing division senior analyst with the Tallahassee-based division of marketing, said its Global Grid campaign lost only one retailer because of the freeze-caused shortages.

“Yes, we had a little dip but it is amazing when we can say we had a little dip of 50,000 store ads,” he said. “There was a time when that would have been the entire program.”

In the first two years, the Fresh from Florida program had 22,000 store ads in 2002 and 68,000 in 2003.

“Because of the freeze, it literally dipped the size of an entire program,” Sleep said. “That shows you how large the program has gotten.”

High retail participation
This marketing year, a little more than 11,000 individual stores are expected to feature the Florida logo and run ads compared to the 11,818 that participated last season, he said.

Up to 40 individual supermarket chains are participating this year versus the 37 that participated in the 2009-10 season.

Given the freeze-caused shortages, one would think the agency might change its focus.

Sleep, however, said the outfit isn’t planning to alter its strategy or change the mix of products it promotes, which includes blueberries, citrus, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce and other items.

The organization is, however, considering doing some new things this year as it does every season, he said.

Teams of merchandisers visited retailers in August and September and talked to retail produce category directors about augmenting their promotions with demonstrations that feature Fresh from Florida produce.

“We have had some of the most extraordinary resiliency in getting retail partners to come back with us,” Sleep said. “No one loses when there are more sales. Whether (someone) is packing product in cartons or a driver moving maybe one more load out, it all enhances the basic foundation of Florida’s economy, which is agriculture.”

Because of the freeze and other factors such as the economy, Sleep said the 2009-10 season saw a more than $700 million dip in cash receipts.

For the 2010-11 season, Sleep said the agency expects cash receipts to not exceed $7.12 billion.

Sweet corn and strawberries continue to show intense strength, with corn increasing in sales for five years in a row, Sleep said.

International outreach

Internationally, the Fresh from Florida seal is seen in store ads in Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, the United Kingdom and in Korea.

This year, the agency is working with a major French-owned retail chain in Colombia.

Because of recent trade agreements, Sleep said he expects Florida to be able to begin sending and promoting products in that country’s stores much like the state has done with the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

A merchandising team visited the country earlier this year to review the opportunities.

Working in Colombia should present another good opportunity for Florida, Sleep said, one that could augment what Sleep calls Florida’s “Hispanic zone” as the state works with other Florida Hispanic-oriented chains.

In Europe, the agency is looking to conduct a small pilot program with a Sweden retail chain.

“That could be another country where we can do business with,” he said. “We would like to get into the Scandinavian countries, which are a mirror image of Canada.”

The extremely cold winters force the northern European countries to import produce from growers in the Mediterranean region and Chile.

In addition to its Global Grid campaign, the agency promotes Florida-grown produce to consumers in the Sunshine State and surrounding Southeastern states through its Winter Circle program.

Florida this year has budgeted $500,000 for its retail promotions, similar to last year’s expenditures.