New promotion plan would strengthen industry

04/27/2009 08:54:08 AM
Tom Karst

Does advertising work?

If it does work, will growers make more money?

Tom Karst
National Editor

Those were two of the central questions of the hour during a town hall meeting about the proposed national generic promotion board for fruits and vegetables at the United Fresh Produce Association’s show on April 22 in Las Vegas.

Produce for Better Health Foundation board chairman Paul Klutes, director of brand sales at C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., said he views the possible generic promotion campaign as a way to move more boxes, not as a public health initiative.

“How do we make this grow the category and grow consumption?” he asked.

“I represent growers, and moving additional boxes doesn’t necessarily translate to more money in growers’ pockets,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland. “I urge this process to continue the health of the grower.”

He said vegetables and other seed crops can quickly respond to increased demand, therefore, the profitability of the grower is always at risk, even if demand increases.

“Increasing consumption does not necessarily increase profitability back to the grower because there is always the ability to go plant 20% more acreage,” Stuart said.

Klutes acknowledged advertising is not a panacea for all things.

Elizabeth Pivonka, PBH president and chief executive officer, said growers make those planting decisions even without a generic advertising program.

Mark Murai, president of the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, asked several thoughtful questions about the plan and was perhaps the most vocal — and skeptical — voice at the meeting.

“We know this will come back to the growers,” he said.

He asked if all task members supported the plan.

While members and their companies have not all endorsed the plan, task force members Mark Munger, vice president of marketing for San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce; and Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., spoke about possible benefits of the plan at the meeting in the face of considerable skepticism from some commodity group and association leaders nervous about grower reaction to another assessment.


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