The December freezes that damaged Florida vegetable production haven’t stopped Florida’s sales and marketing arm from promoting Fresh from Florida produce throughout the world.
Dan Sleep, senior analyst with the division of marketing for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee, said the agency has monitored damage. He said green beans, sweet corn and bell peppers suffered the most damage. He said the crops were turning around and improving in February and that volume should build through March and April.
Though the state overall lost about 6.5 million cases of fresh produce, Sleep said buyers should expect strong volume for the remainder of the spring.
“We are in good shape going forward and expect excellent results in product out there,” Sleep said. “We don’t ship anything bad. No one can afford to do that. The product is inspected over and over.”
As part of its wide-reaching U.S. retail promotion program, the agency has signed up the Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis, to run a full week promoting Fresh from Florida products. All of the chain’s stores plan to feature the Florida items deep into the latter half of March.
Overall, the Fresh from Florida program expects to have 11,000 stores throughout the world promote Florida produce. Those stores are expected to generate up to 400,000 store advertisements, Sleep said.
“That’s where we want them to be, even with the hurt our state suffered in December,” he said. “We are beginning this season very strong. They had good growing conditions other than some drought, but they can react to that with watering. Our marketing programs will be all over the U.S. and in Canada, which is a huge market for us, as normal.”
The department’s Canadian marketing has increased in recent years. In 2002, when the Fresh from Florida program first began promoting in the country, participating stores ran 3,000 advertisements, equivalent to a chain such as Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla., going on ad with three of the state’s products, Sleep said.
In 2009, Canadian retailers ran 110,000 store ads, he said. Sleep said he expects the country’s stores to have run a comparable number of ads in 2010.
“We have had a lot of fun with them over the years and their ads have grown each year,” he said. “We have seen tremendous growth up there. In total, 500,000 store ads have run in Canada to this point.”