Organics shippers seek face time with consumers in retail

05/03/2013 02:36:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Several organic suppliers prefer to connect with consumers face to face, they say.

In the case of retail sales, this responsibility often falls to produce department managers and employees to engage with consumers as well as ensure adequate in-store signs.

“We should not assume that everyone understands what organic agriculture is, nor should we assume that everyone understands your stores’ relationship with it,” said Simcha Weinstein, director of marketing for Albert’s Organics Inc., Bridgeport, N.J.

 

Use signs to educate

Weinstein suggests retail stores consider a large banner that conveys the store’s organic produce mission statement, as well as a sign that explains exactly what organic produce means.

“It’s a mistake to ever assume that shoppers know this or even completely understand organic,” he said in an e-mail.

Another sign can be used to detail the benefits of organic products, and Albert’s makes these materials available to retailers by download on the company website, www.albertsorganics.com.

And just because signs aren’t as personable as in-store demonstrations or events, they can still be effective.

“Many progressive retailers are using in-store signage and point of sale material to better highlight their organic programs and make it easier for consumers looking for organic,” Jim Roberts, vice president of sales with Naples, Fla.-based berry grower-shipper Naturipe Farms LLC, said in an e-mail.

“Offering, and promoting to consumers, an organic berry when promoting a conventional berry has proven to be a very effective tool in driving incremental sales,” Roberts said.

 

Events offer opportunities

San Francisco-based Earl’s Organic Produce also believes strongly in face-to-face interactions with consumers.

Owner Earl Herrick says the company tries to continuously keep its face to the community.

One way it accomplishes this goal is through events at the California Academy of Sciences each quarter.

The nights are a fun event with music and cocktails, Herrick said.

“This spring, we’ll be sampling strawberries and blueberries. We want to represent what’s fresh and in season,” he said.

Herrick said the company generally hands out samples and information to around 1,000 people during one of these events.

“I think it’s really important to communicate directly with consumers. Organic consumers commonly have more questions about their food, and communicating with them gives us the opportunity to answer those questions directly,” he said.

Scott Mabs, chief executive officer for Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, Calif., said he believes the need for face-to-face communication is a trust factor for consumers.

“When you buy something and you don’t know who or where it came from, and there’s no way to get answers, that’s not a good feeling,” he said.

Mabs prefers to use retail signs or demonstrations to communicate with consumers but understands it’s not always possible, as retailers have control over when and if they want to implement things like that.

Homegrown often relies on social media to keep its face to the public.

“We have a Facebook page and Twitter account that we keep updated to support our retailers in their efforts to continue to educate consumers,” he said.



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