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Kernel of Truth


Aside from the proteins on the grill, nothing says “backyard barbecue” like corn on the cob. A favorite vegetable of young and old alike, fresh corn signals summer eating for many shoppers.

However, less-than-ideal growing conditions in Florida and Mexico have led to low corn supplies this spring.

California begins shipping its crop this month. “The California crop is normal to slightly above,” notes Daren VanDyke, director of sales and marketing for Five Crowns Marketing, a grower, packer and shipper that markets and sells GloriAnn corn out of Brawley, Calif. He predicts supplies will be better in May than in April.

Trends and Tastes

“Demand for value-added is up, but what still drives the corn category is bulk,” observes VanDyke, who believes that corn priced as a loss leader may be hindering growth in value-added.

“As an industry, I think we have to look at changing the way corn is marketed to avoid making it a loss leader, but still offer it at an attractive price,” he continues. “Instead of four [ears] for a dollar, maybe it’s six for $1.99.”

At the same time, VanDyke understands the draw of more corn for the money. “Embrace multiples,” he says. “A hot corn deal gets customers in the door, and then shoppers buy charcoal, steaks and beer.”

Cross-merchandising is also key, VanDyke advises. Fresh corn is an opportunity to sell everything from pesto sauce to brush on grilled cobs, to avocados and salsa for a Cinco de Mayo celebration. “Show customers different ways to use corn in soups, salads or fresh pico de gallo,” he notes.

Nostalgic Nibbles

“Corn on the cob is one of those things that harkens back to summertime and picnics, barbecues and family gatherings,” says Lori Bigras, senior marketing manager of Growers Express, in Salinas, Calif. “No matter where you grew up, it seems to be a nostalgic favorite that takes people back to simpler times.”

Growers Express’ Green Giant Fresh brand offers premium fresh corn-on-the-cob items all year long, including sweet, white, yellow and bicolor. To satisfy shoppers’ craving for convenience, Green Giant Fresh also offers value-added cob items, many of which are prepped and ready to cook, and some of which are microwaveable in their pouches.

Branch, a Family of Farms, in South Bay, Fla., recently debuted its newest sweet corn variety, Sweet Emotion. Beginning this month, the corn will be available through Labor Day at select retailers in the United States.

Retailers that join the Sweet Emotion program will receive exclusivity in their respective markets, notes Brett Bergmann, president of Branch. Participating retailers gain marketing support, including POS materials and social marketing content.

“Demand for value-added is up, but what still drives the corn category is bulk.”
—Daren VanDyke, Five Crown Marketing

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