If the Organic Trade Association is seeking the produce industry’s support for its “toolkit” on the best messages to use when motivating “light” organic consumers to eat more, the OTA will have to work on its own messaging.
As part of the organization’s GRO Organic (Generate Results and Opportunity for Organics) research, promotion and education program, made possible by OTA member donations, the group is figuring out what marketing messages work best.
The goal, which is sensible, is to get the industry members “on the same page about how to talk to consumers in the most effective way about organics,” according to the association’s Angela Jagiello, director of education and insights for the OTA, who spoke Jan. 10 at The Packer’s Global Organic Produce Expo.
The simplest message is the most effective, and telling the basic story about organic is the most powerful, she said. That message is: growers of conventional produce are allowed to use 700 chemicals that aren’t allowed in organic.
Someone attending the session suggested maybe “taking the high road” and not demonizing conventional produce while promoting organic.
“We can totally disagree about that,” said Jagiello, stressing that marketers need to feel comfortable about talking about chemicals.
The vast amount of organic produce is grown by companies that also have conventional produce. To suggest they support GRO Organic while disparaging their own product must be a tough sell.
For years, the produce industry has battled the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, which vilifies conventional produce for pesticide residues.
Bit by bit, the Alliance for Food and Farming has slowly worked the truth into the mainstream reporting on the list: the levels of the residue are so low there is no health risk from eating multiple servings of any item on the list, and organic or conventional, it’s still best to eat more fruits and vegetables. On that point, even the EWG agrees.
We’ve reported on how the Dirty Dozen list actually discourages healthy eating by creating confusing messages for consumers. The OTA risks doing the same.
“Yes, we do have a concern about that message, since it implies one production method is safer than the other when the science clearly shows both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables are safe and can be eaten with confidence,” AFF director Teresa Thorne said in an e-mail.
The AFF has done its own research to find out what resonates with consumers, without disparaging conventional produce, through its Facts, Not Fears campaign.
A recent AFF survey of registered dietitians showed that 94% agreed that fear-based messaging regarding pesticide residues has a negative effect on purchases.
“Why not advocate for organics instead of advocating against healthy products that health officials universally agree we should all eat more of every day for a better health and a longer life?” Thorne wrote.
Yes, why not?
Chris Koger is The Packer's news editor. E-mail him at [email protected].
Organic messaging research finds winning themes