Group uses chefs, bloggers to promote strawberry consumption

12/26/2012 12:29:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

DOVER, Fla. — The Florida Strawberry Growers Association is focusing on foodservice to encourage restaurants to feature strawberries in dishes.

The association is also promoting recipes featuring strawberries to encourage shoppers to buy more berries.

Instead of using conventional advertising, the organization is focusing on its website, www.flastrawberry.com, which it revamped last year.

The association is continuing to partner with food bloggers and share strawberry recipes with home and professional cooks through its website.

The group last year formed a chef’s advisory board to develop recipes and help chefs incorporate Florida strawberries into their menus during the winter.

The association is involved in projects with the chefs, who develop specially created recipes featuring strawberries, said Sue Harrell, director of marketing.

A Hard Rock Cafe executive chef is on the advisory board and has created a dish featuring strawberries that the restaurant plans to feature during a February campaign, Harrell said.

The association includes biographical and other information about the chefs on its website and promotes the chefs’ work through marketing materials it gives buyers at trade shows.

During late February and early March, the association plans to participate in a cereal cross-merchandising promotion with General Mills.

Though the association was developing the promotion in early December, Harrell said it would feature individual peel-off coupon labels on clamshells for cereal and also include Cool Whip topping and Ziploc containers.

To help increase strawberry use in school cafeterias, the association has joined a school culinary professional organization and is involved with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ farm to school program.

The association distributes educational material designed to inform grade school students about strawberries through Jammer, the group’s animated strawberry character.

It also spreads the word on the nutritional benefits of strawberries through videos.

The association plans to work with the culinary organization by participating in its conferences and trade shows.

“We want them to know we will be the place they call for and are aware of strawberries,” Harrell said.

“We can’t really do a big promotion like the dairy people did with the yogurt parfaits, but we’re getting in on the ground level so they know us and how to get information from us.”

Steve Machell, sales manager for Gulf Coast Produce Inc., recently attended a Florida farms to schools meeting to discuss how more Florida schools can buy and serve Florida produce.

“They (the agriculture department) are doing a nice job supporting local produce,” Machell said.

“They had a lot of foodservice guys there at the meeting. Florida being the customer, they want Florida product. It’s great and is nice to see Florida trying to push the state’s own products.”

To help increase consumer use of strawberries, the association is working with consumer magazine publisher Meredith Publishing in Des Moines, Iowa, to feature articles on berries in their publications, which include Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.

For retail merchandising, the group plans to conduct events with individual stores at major Florida retailers.

Billboards on major Florida interstate highways tell tourists traveling to and from the north about Florida’s strawberries.



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