DOVER, Fla. — The Florida Strawberry Growers Association is turning to social media to encourage consumers to eat more fresh strawberries this winter.
The association plans to target chefs, restaurant managers and consumers through social networking sites such as Facebook, other websites and blogs.
“Consumers are looking online for recipes now more than cookbooks,” said Sue Harrell, director of marketing.
“We want to come up and be one of their choices so they can come to us. We want to show people what to do and give them different ideas other than eating strawberries fresh, like how exciting it is to put them in a salad or do other things other than eating desserts.”
Ted Campbell, executive director, said organizations can reach many more people through the way they use the Internet and that such promotions are less expensive than printing materials for distribution at retail and foodservice locations.
For the second year, the association is using Jammer, an animated strawberry character, to promote the state’s berries.
Many packers are affixing the Jammer image alongside the Fresh from Florida logo on clamshells.
The association is using the character in videos designed for children that cover nutrition, information on the industry and recipes such as a children’s strawberry smoothie breakfast.
The character has been an effective vehicle in teaching children about the importance of strawberries, Campbell said.
Other videos designed for adults also feature a local grower and a handler discussing berry production and packing to educate consumers about Florida’s berries.
The videos will include recipes and information such as instructions for chocolate dipping berries, Christmas holiday entertaining and creative ways to improve table settings using strawberries.
The video programs and other information will also show consumers what they can do with berries once they bring them home to ensure they bring out the best flavor.
Those videos and other information will be available though a new website, http://strawberrysue.com.
Harrell said the association hasn’t used the new media as much in the past. Though it has a website, the group didn’t utilize it much further, she said.
To entertain foodservice interest, the association is planning to sponsor a Florida chef’s harvest tour.
The tour, which the group is planning to hold in February, is set to have a group of chefs from Florida restaurants and private clubs tour strawberry fields, meet with growers and see packing and handling operations during the March 3-13 Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
For prizes, the association plans to award $500 gift cards through a random drawing of participating chefs that prove they support Florida strawberries through copies of menus featuring signature strawberry dishes or invoices documenting berry purchases.
The association also plans to award two $1,000 gift cards to recognize larger restaurant chain efforts promoting the state’s berries.
For retail, the association plans to promote Florida berries through media kits. The association plans to provide posters and other artwork that supermarkets can download and customize for their own in-store signs to use in strawberry displays.
A recipe brochure featuring winning recipes of a recipe contest the association sponsored with the Birmingham, Ala.-based Taste of the South magazine is to be made available via download and for distribution to consumers in the produce aisle, Harrell said.
Eight pages in the December 2010/January 2011 magazine issue feature articles about eating, handling and nutrition and photos of the strawberry recipes that the association plans to feature on its website.
“When we started looking at all of these cool recipes that came in, we saw some neat things,” Campbell said.
“Once you get chefs excited, they are so creative and are wonderful people with the way they create their dishes.”
Campbell said foodservice is important. He said he saw so many innovative produce products being released for foodservice use during the Oct. 15-18 Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010 in Orlando.
“We are tying in other produce products with strawberries in ways that aren’t always conventional uses,” Campbell said.
“We have had a succession of success stories with the Taste of the South, did a chef’s tour last season and ran promotions with the recipes. We can spread the winning recipes around and keep it flowing as much as we can.”
Steve Machell, sales manager for Gulf Coast Produce Inc., said he’s impressed with the association’s marketing efforts.
“Jammer will be our Nike swoosh, the checkmark, so to speak, which will be our identity and help increase sales,” Machell said.
“The growers association has done a phenomenal job with the new varieties and has now really embraced the need to do more marketing. They’re becoming much more attuned to the marketing side as well.”