Survey results show economy's effect on industry

10/02/2009 08:58:59 AM
Dan Galbraith

Fresh Summit returns to Orlando in 2010.

Local produce: Get it while it’s hot

Similar to last year’s survey results showing the poor economy wasn’t hurting sales of organic or specialty produce, this year’s results bolstered the notion that locally grown produce may be recession-resistant.

Sixty percent of survey-takers this September said sales of locally grown produce remain steady despite the weak economy, while 28% said sales are even rising in the recession. Only 12% indicated their locally grown sales are falling.

Last year’s survey results showed 22% saying organic and specialty sales were increasing, while another 24% said one or the other was on the rise. Another 30% reported steady sales of both, while 23% said they saw sales of organic and specialty produce drop along with the U.S. economy.

Marketing to ethnic groups

Responses to another recent Produce Pulse question addressed how members of the fresh produce industry are marketing to specific ethnic groups.

With ethnic diversity in the U.S. giving rise to regional supermarket chains geared to attract those with Hispanic and/or Asian backgrounds, survey respondents said this type of marketing has become big business.

“New items have been added to our product line,” one grower-shipper said. “Packaging and in-language marketing materials have been developed.”

Other respondents said:

  • “We are developing products and types of packages to be more appealing.”
  • “We do not attempt to narrow our focus. We want to sell everything for everyone.”
  • “We have a handful of items that are targeted towards specific ethnic groups, and we try to plan for those as much as possible and respective harvest allows.”
  • “We have conducted tours in ethnically concentrated areas to learn more about the fruits and vegetables they consume. We then invite industry leaders from the various ethnic groups and introduce them to farmers we believe can grow for their needs.”
  • “If you try to be everything to every customer you will fail. Niche markets are defined as such and have a place in retail. The key is to focus on your core customer and their needs, not a small niche that may detract from your core base.”
  • “Through our Customer Connection program, we actually speak with our clientele to find out their specific needs, and we address those according to demand.”



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