( The Packer )

Lauren M. Scott’s third anniversary as chief marketing officer of the Produce Marketing Association has arrived; it is easy to remember because her first day on the job was at Fresh Summit in 2016.

Prior to joining PMA, Scott worked in marketing for consumer packaged goods companies, including 14 years with beverage giant PepsiCo. Her first days with PMA marked the beginning of what she described as a listening tour of the produce industry, taking time to understand the background of organizations, their challenges, their strategies and their goals.
Now, keeping the overall industry in mind, Scott and PMA are also thinking about different sizes and types of individual organizations and how to help them succeed in the coming years.

“For us it’s about, one, how do we help marketers find each other and connect, recognizing that many people are in different places based on their experience or the companies they’re in, and then to find the resources to help them on their journey and to help find their tribe,” Scott said.

“My concern is making sure that they’re getting the information that they need to help them be able to make the right business decision and investments that they see fit so they can continue to thrive and not feel like they’re being left behind, and not even from a competitive standpoint, just even from a broader society (standpoint),” Scott said.

One of the challenges the produce industry faces is that while food has a commanding presence in culture — and fresh produce in particular is very much en vogue — the connection is sometimes shallow.

“One challenge is that, as popular as we are in culture from a sentiment (standpoint), I think there’s not a deep understanding of the industry and realities of the industry,” Scott said. “Consumers’ understanding of things in general — it’s not just the produce industry — is fairly finite, and so the risk is that you’re at the whim of somebody’s agenda.

“We’ve seen that multiple times, which is why having the industry’s voice in culture is critically important to make sure ... our stories and the truth behind our industry is being told,” Scott said.

Creating a strong presence for produce in the broader food conversation is something PMA continues to emphasize, including through its presence at Austin, Texas, festival South by Southwest.

“PMA and its members have benefited greatly from Lauren’s expertise in her short time with us,” said Cathy Burns, CEO of PMA. 

“She has pushed us to think differently about strategic marketing and how we connect with consumers, but also to engage with leaders outside our industry to ensure they know about the incredible work the produce and floral industries do every day.

“It is amazing to see her energy and passion for marketing become a source of connection and community for our members, and I look forward to seeing this come to life at Fresh Summit in several experience extensions on our program,” Burns said.

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