The United Fresh Retail Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference on June 13 explored the role of brands through ideation to purchase from an expert, and a produce industry point of view.
This was the second year for the post-show conference. About 150 people attended, said Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communications for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.
Building a brand doesn’t mean relying on your name to carry a product across categories, said Al Ries, chairman of Ries & Ries and author of “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.” Introducing a new product in an already populated category can be difficult, even for market leaders, he said.
“Everybody wants to grow by expanding the line, where the secret is introducing a new brand,” he said. “The most difficult marketing tactic is moving a brand from one category to another.”
Attendees also heard the story of the second Eataly location in the U.S. from Jason Goldsmith, co-general manager of Eataly Chicago.
The 63,000-square-foot retail store and eatery has introduced some unique experiences to U.S. retail, such as its vegetable butcher, who does complimentary custom cuts in-store for any produce purchased.
The store has 700 employees, Goldsmith said, and focuses on educating customers about its carefully curated selection of premium local foods. The Eataly brand experience is built on its knowledgeable staff and education in-store, he said.
“We hire the best people who are experts in their field,” he said.
Brand by design
Christopher Studach, creative director for King Retail Solutions, Eugene, Ore., discussed how retail design has evolved over the past few years with a strong emphasis on fresh.
No longer are retailers looking for “warm and inviting,” he said. The new retail design takes fresh to the front and center with words like “inspiring,” “unique” and “experience.”
Leaders in branding a retail experience, like Whole Foods, have figured out “how to turn the drudgery of a shopping trip into an adventure,” he said.
Produce is at the forefront of a retail brand, and retailers are paring down their stores to the basics.
“Look for retailers to downsize,” Studach said. “There will be a smarter, more carefully curated approach to merchandising.”
Panelist Paul Kneeland, director of produce, floral, meat and seafood at Parsippany, N.J.-based Kings Food Markets, discussed the chain’s rebranding efforts over the past few years, and bringing fresh produce into other areas in the store.
“Our logo changed to a whisk to emphasize the culinary experience,” Kneeland said.
Kings started merchandising produce with gourmet tie-ins, like cheese and meat to create a meal solution.
“We can measure that effort and we’ve seen a 52% sales increase in those items,” he said.
The conference also covered branding and packaging innovations and engaging the consumer post-purchase to drive repeat demand.