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Produce and Floral Poised for Growth Backed by Marketing


When someone asks me what I do for a living, my answer usually is: “I am in marketing.”  This response often elicits a faint “ah” followed by a lively discussion about a popular TV ad.

While certainly the most visible, advertising is just the tip of the iceberg. Marketing is a rigorous, multifaceted discipline of analysis, research, consumer understanding, business strategy, cross-functional leadership, budget crunching, cultural exploration, invention, benchmarking and yes, creative flare to drive prudent strategic investments.

In other words, it is not touchy-feely stuff.                  

As new chief marketing officer (CMO) for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), my role is to help our members along the produce and floral supply chains leverage marketing as a discipline to unlock growth by increasing demand and consumption.

I’ve just joined PMA, and I’m new to the industry. I’m excited to work closely with the marketing pros at PMA member companies. Their expertise, history and insights will be critical as we work together to shape new possibilities for marketing produce and floral. I am also immersing myself in our members' businesses.

I have a lot to learn, yet being new to this industry does have its advantages. I can view the business with fresh eyes. Having been a consumer marketer for more than 15 years, I know a good thing when I see it. And I see it in produce and floral. This industry is poised for tremendous growth, and here’s why I believe this:

Produce and floral innately spark demand

Produce and floral sales at retail often are impulse buys. That surprised me until I recalled a recent shopping trip when my "two-item store run" morphed into a myriad of apples, collard greens, berries and Brussels sprouts in my cart. Perhaps it was a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)—if I don’t get this now, I won’t have a great flavor experience. Maybe I got inspired or found an easy meal solution. I suspect it’s a little bit of everything.

We can connect with consumers emotionally

Our categories are white hot in culture now. More people are consciously eating more produce, and smoothies, center-plate vegetables, salads and fruit are rising culinary offerings. Floral at retail has outpaced florists’ sales. Strong marketing can capitalize on these to drive positive brand and product sentiment. Plus, our goods back up our claims.

We’re not even close to the consumption recommendations

Few categories have the global reach and penetration potential to touch every person on the planet. Imagine if everyone ate the recommended “half of your plate” of fruits and vegetables daily. We’d have the wonderful problem of being out of stock, and we’d be boosting individuals’ health and societal wellness.

By stimulating purchases, raising our attractiveness and cultural relevance with consumers and expanding category usage, the industry — and sales — can grow exponentially.

So now the question is: How? Being a great product is not enough. We need to have a meaningful role in consumers’ lives and be a powerful voice in culture through offerings and platforms that cut through the clutter and resonate to drive our message.

Here are my core marketing principles that I believe we as an industry can use to achieve this:

  • Be strategic – always. Be sure our brand and product promise are crystal clear.
  • Don’t compromise on creative. All touchpoints matter: packaging, font, color, product, merchandising, experience, price, media and consumer interactions.
  • Invest in innovation. Innovation can tackle broad business issues and develop creative, lucrative solutions.
  • Consumers have a long memory, let’s not confuse them. People don't spend eight hours a day thinking about our brand/category/store/product like we do. Consistency of message and ease of understanding is critical.
  • Let’s have fun! When we are happy, people including our consumers want to be around us.

There are lots of questions, barriers, opportunities and headwinds and certainly a lot of work ahead. But the produce and floral industries have a strong marketing foundation. Now we are ready to discover new approaches to drive our business performance and improve consumers’ lives worldwide.

I’m excited to be a part of this journey and grateful for the produce and floral community for inviting me to join them on what will be an amazing ride.  

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