National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

"Is fresh best? The answer won't surprise you."

Okay, I admit I hijacked a headline and changed the words. Fox had it: "Is fresh best? The answer may surprise you."

My point is that the only reason that people would be surprised at the answer to the question, "Is fresh best?" is that those consumers truly believe fresh is best. If they are told processed fruits and veggies are just as nice as fresh produce, they may be stunned.

We should not dissuade consumers from their perspective that fresh is best.

Yet, "all forms count" continues to be the mantra of America's major fruit and vegetable promotional efforts. Take fresh, frozen or canned; heck have the fruit-roll up, if you like.

I kid, but seriously, why can't there be a "fresh is best" campaign? Doesn't this multi-billion dollar fresh industry deserve its own special golden halo compared with processed fruits and veggies?

Sure, there may be no "scientific" reason to favor fresh over processed. But what is marketing and advertising if it isn't creating and building on consumer preference? The industry needs to show a little marketing chutzpah, some bit of audacity. Elevate fresh; that is the business we are in, correct?

In the March 2 Fox news piece, Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation was quoted:

It is much easier to get people to fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables using canned or frozen produce for many reasons: cost, less plant waste, consistency of taste, already cut, and ease of cooking,” according to Elizabeth Pivonka, a registered dietitian and president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation.  

Pivonka’s viewpoint is that people need to eat more fruits and vegetables – and if eating frozen or canned fruits and vegetables is an easier fit for their lifestyle, they should go for it.

The implied message that "all form counts" in PBH promotions has been around since the birth of PBH, and the explicit message has been part of the promotion landscape since at least 2007.

A promotion message that focuses only on fresh could play off so many positive attributes that consumers assign to fresh - color, texture, nutrition, flavor and just-picked freshness.

From a story in The Packer in April 2007, I reported:

Jennifer Scott, managing director of insights and research at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, New York, presented research to the PBH board of trustees March 18 that showed 39% of mothers were neutral about whether canned vegetables or fruit were healthy. In contrast, about 99% viewed fresh produce as healthy, compared with 80% for frozen.

TK: Growers couldn't make it without our processed foods brethren. However,  lumping canned and frozen products with fresh produce in an "all forms count" mantra could be weighing down consumer demand for fresh produce.

All forms count, but fresh should count more than all the rest.