(Dec. 31, NATIONAL EDITOR'S COLUMN) In a recent Fresh Talk poll (link at www.thepacker.com), I asked readers this question: “Would the industry benefit from a USDA generic promotion order, with mandatory assessments, for fresh produce?”
The answers were: no (52%); yes ( 42%); and unsure (6%).
I wrote then that the poll may have closed, but the case was not closed for a generic promotion order for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. Consider the myriad of promotion schemes in the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry, and ask yourself if there is a better way.
For one thing, the strategy of region/country-based generic promotions is fascinating and a little puzzling to me.
Why should California, Mexico or Chile run their own separate promotions of hass avocados, for example, as opposed to a unified generic hass promotion? Wouldn’t buyers prefer dealing with one promotion department rather than several?
The answer is undoubtedly linked to control of the message, decisions with mandatory assessment dollars and pride in a particular growing region. That reality for avocado promotion is not going away, and in fact, one source tells me the regional focus may increase in the future.
This, of course, is not unique to the Hass Avocado Board and all the accompanying associations and commissions, which handle avocados from California, Chile and Mexico.
Promotions for potatoes, onions, apples, grapefruit and countless other fresh commodities argue for the fruit of a particular region or state. Perhaps that is why so many in the industry have rejected the idea of a mandatory assessment to fund generic promotions of fresh fruits and vegetables.
How can you unify marketers of dozens of commodities when there is no unity within a commodity? That is not to mention the cross purposes of brand marketers, who seek to promote their own label over a generic image.
Despite — or because of — the history of fragmentation of efforts, I think the industry may benefit from a national promotion order for fresh produce. A promotion order would undoubtedly give the industry more clout at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Given the fact that the Produce for Better Health Foundation promotes the “all forms count” message, such an effort would not be redundant. Perhaps the promotion order could specify that mandatory assessments be used for fresh “More Matters” promotions exclusively by PBH.
To truly set fresh apart, perhaps a new “fresh-first oriented message” apart from PBH is in order.
While processed fruit and vegetable marketers pressure to elbow their way into the USDA fruit and vegetable snack program, the industry needs a well-funded promotion arm that will make the case for fresh and fresh alone.