As a result of having five (going on six) children under the age of 8, I find myself spending a good deal of my time engaging with, listening to and observing them.
One of my favorite thing to do with my kids is to see them experiencing new things. A simple thing I have always done is to bring home fresh, preferably exotic produce items from work and try to convince them to sample the items.
Typically I will set the stage with a semi-mysterious aura to build up curiosity. I will tell them where it comes from, show pictures of the area in which it grows, describe interesting historical facts from the area, and talk about the item’s health benefits — not in medical terms, but more in a “super power” sense. I believe that telling a story this way creates a more vivid mental relation within the child.
My kids all vary in their preference for produce, but generally I have been successful at increasing their interest.
In order to increase per-capita consumption of produce as an industry, we need to focus on children. Preferences and behaviors start being molded at a young age. The more positive, fun and engaging experiences that children have with fresh produce, the more likely they are going to influence their family and peers and grow up to become lifelong consumers.
As far as long-term initiatives of our industry are concerned, nothing should be more important than focusing on this.
Not only are we doing good for our industry, we are doing good for the world as a whole. Food is medicine, and fresh produce is the vaccine for an innumerable amount of ailments, especially if consumed throughout a lifetime.
Every conversation that we have should highlight this significant benefit. Our industry should continue to work with regulators to increase funding through programs that distribute dollars to be spent on fresh produce.
We should also work with government stakeholders to ensure that our products are not only being funded and consumed, but are also being learned about and experienced in the right way through every public institution that serves food. This requires engagement from industry leaders to appeal to regulators on behalf of our cause.
The retail and foodservice channels of our supply chain should also continue to increase their appeal to children. Increased marketing dollars should be spent on this demographic, and promotional programs should continue to be created to increase the familiarity, appeal and knowledge of fresh produce.
How can one go about measuring the ROI on marketing dollars spent in childhood over the customer lifetime value of someone that buys fresh produce? It makes sense that this ROI would substantially compound over time. Investments of this nature are the ultimate representation of the adage “a rising tide raises all ships.”
It is incumbent upon each of us to do our part to encourage the next generation of consumers to fall in love with fresh produce — not only for their own health, but also for the health of our industry.
Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected].