Ohio vegetable growers will lose sales if they don’t familiarize themselves with buyer preferences.
That’s why Ohio State University developed, in conjunction with the University of Kentucky, the MarketReady program, said Julie Fox, direct-marketing specialist with OSU.
“It’s really intended to help these producers, whatever scale they’re selling in, to enter new markets,” Fox said.
OSU launched the program in pilot form last year.
A number of workshops already had brought together growers and a panels of buyers from retail, foodservice, wholesale and distribution centers.
Tim Woods, agriculture economist at the University of Kentucky, developed a curriculum based on interviews with about 115 buyers from various sectors,” Fox said.
“Based on that, we developed a checklist on things like packaging, pricing, liability — a really nice framework that we did a full day of training on with producers,” Fox said.
Buyer panels have question-and-answer sessions with growers to help the latter comprehend what it takes to be successful in each segment, Fox said.
“We like the framework so much that we recognized that producers had to ask themselves these same questions across marketing channels so that if you look at selling to a restaurant, whether that means packaging or look at pricing, you look at a restaurant’s price versus a grocery store’s price,” Fox said.
The program piloted a program this year to include direct-to-consumer channels, as well as the wholesale sector, Fox said.
Waste less time, money
Growers who are trained to know what buyers need save time, as well as make new sales, Fox said.
“They don’t waste too much time or waste too much money when they try to enter any new market,” she said.
It’s important because buyers from one sector will look for sizes, packaging, pricing and other issues that differ from their counterparts in another segment, Fox noted.
“If they want to be inside the restaurants, they really understood how restaurants operate, and if they want to go into independent grocery stores, they really understand how those stores operate,” she said.
Buyers want suppliers to be prepared before they meet.
The buyers have welcomed the program, Fox said.
“We give the curriculum to buyers, and they hug you because it’s exactly what they need,” Fox said.
Buyers don’t want to have to educate each supplier themselves, and MarketReady averts that necessity, Fox said.