GHQ: A Complex Challenge

Discussion
Sep 07, 2007

By Carol Radice

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a current article from Grocery Headquarters magazine, presented here for discussion.

When industry experts talk about the role brands can play in driving produce sales, almost everyone agrees that retailers are not doing everything they can to leverage and market the qualities brands bring to the table. They say that’s because branding the produce department is not as straightforward as branding other departments.

Since retailers typically stock only one brand per product line in each produce category, the reasoning goes, consumers usually don’t have the opportunity to choose among brands, which stymies the drive toward brand equity. What’s more, the physical appearance of the product can change drastically between its origin and the retail shelf, so trying to tie a power brand to produce can be risky.

A smart branding strategy not only adds excitement and keeps people coming back for more of a product often viewed as a commodity, but has also proved instrumental in promoting new ways to use produce.

So what’s the best way to build a produce branding strategy? Experts have a number of suggestions, including highlighting new varieties when they hit the market, reexamining assortments and working more closely with shippers/growers to market brands. By extension that means doing a better job of educating consumers about selection, storage, preparation and cooking.

Tracy King, director of marketing at Dovex, said branding the produce department poses a challenge to retailers because they are often reluctant to clutter up the section with literature and signage. Like others, Mr. King said consumers’ strong desire to be more connected with the place where produce originates is a good stepping-stone for growers and retailers looking to establish a brand image in the department. The move among retailers toward creating a farmer’s market-type atmosphere has gone a long way to establish and convey the image of fresh, quality and locally grown produce.

In his experience, Russell Wysocki, president of the Russet Potato Exchange, said what works best in the potato category is for retailers to select brands that complement each other. Having too many brands of the same item or rotating brands each month because of a hot deal may work in the short term, but he contends that in the long run it confuses consumers.

“In other words,” he said, “to create the ideal level of brand appeal, retailers need to feature both a variety of produce and maintain consistent labels across the category.”

A strong, positive perception of a brand promise can do many things, according to Dan Spain, vice president of Kingsburg Orchards, including portraying his company as a leader in the stone fruit category.

“When a consumer sees our brand on the fruit, he or she knows that we deliver on our promise of a great eating experience,” he said. “It’s that consistency, among other things, that will keep them coming back for fruit in a particular store and keep them interested in brands like ours.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think is the best way to build a produce branding strategy? What are some inherent challenges to an effectively strategy?

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5 Comments on "GHQ: A Complex Challenge"


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Len Lewis
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Len Lewis
14 years 8 months ago

As anyone here knows, a good long-term branding strategy is made up of numerous elements ranging from the sign on the front of the stores to in-store merchandising and even the color of the aprons on employees.

One thing it is not about–at least not entirely–is price. This is something that Wal-Mart is trying to come to grips with as we speak.

Race Cowgill
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Race Cowgill
14 years 8 months ago
Not so fast–we jump right into “how can we brand better” and we need to really look at a few other things first. Here is some data that may have a significant bearing on this topic: – 93% of all consumers say that overall, the produce they can buy at grocery stores (as opposed to farm stands and farmers’ markets) falls somewhat short or far short of their expectations. Some of the produce items that rank the lowest with consumers are stone fruits, strawberries, and tomatoes. Some of the produce items that rank the highest are carrots and potatoes. – 88% of all consumers say that the stone fruits they can buy at grocery stores (as opposed to farm stands and farmers’ markets) falls somewhat short or far short of their expectations. 98% of complaints about stone fruits are that the fruit is mealy, lacks flavor, is bruised, is too crisp, and/or has too little juice. – Only 21% of all consumers are able to name any brand of produce at all. – When presented… Read more »
Art Williams
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Art Williams
14 years 8 months ago

I believe the store is the brand in this case but they may strengthen that “brand” by carrying a mix of high quality branded produce. Most people would recognize the Doles and Del Montes as quality branded produce and carrying these brands could raise the perceived value of the store’s produce department. Overall though I see little value to the store from carrying branded produce as the consumers depend on the store to select the best qualities at the best possible prices.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Food retailers need to think like a brand and act like a retailer. Produce as noted is a terrific opportunity to establish your store’s brand. Therefore, retailers need to reflect their store strategy in their produce strategy. If the store is positioned as organic than the produce options should be focused on the best organic product available. Likewise, if the retailer is positioned as the “hometown grocer” than it is incumbent to carry locally grown produce, even if it is not a full assortment. If the retailer is positioned as the source for everything for a fancy dinner or a summer BBQ, then the variety of unique produce carried becomes the produce focal point. The key is not to simply brand produce but to make sure that the produce layout, offerings, education, and staff reinforces the store’s positioning (brand).

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Chiquita, Dole, and GPOD are all successful fresh produce brands. Their quality is consistent, and their labels are everywhere. It took many years to build these brands. The biggest opportunity right now: building organic produce brands, since that market is very fractionated and consistent quality is definitely an issue. Furthermore, organic customers are willing to pay more for known quality.

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