August, 1991

Fruits of Thought

A New Focus

When we launched PRODUCE BUSINESS almost six years ago, we vowed to not only report on events in the industry but also to utilize our intelligence and resources to uncover things previously unknown to the trade. That is to say that we not only wanted to present industry members with interpretation of the way things are, but we also wanted to fill the pages of PRODUCE BUSINESS with new information that wouldn’t have existed unless we uncovered it, information that would not have been revealed unless these pages revealed it.

And so, just about one year ago, we joined with The Fresh Approach, the generic consumer promotion organization of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and together, we committed our organizations to a singularly massive undertaking: To produce the largest, most extensive, most authoritative research on the relationship between consumers and fresh produce that the world has ever known. We called that project Focus On Produce.

One of the reasons The Fresh Approach joined with us in this venture is because this project is, in many ways, a prerequisite for making everything else The Fresh Approach does a success.

The Fresh Approach runs programs designed to increase consumer consumption of fresh produce. Some of these programs they produce themselves, such as The Fresh Tip Tapes, a point of sales video series.

Other programs are basically frameworks in which industry members hang the picture. For example this past June, The Fresh Approach conducted the first National Fruit and Vegetable Month. It created a logo and got a lot of publicity for the industry. But the ultimate success of this program was determined by the willingness of industry members to get involved in functions related to National Fruit and Vegetable Month. No matter how the program was conducted, however, it is only with valid consumer research that we can know who we are aiming at and how best to hit them.

Why don’t American consumers eat as much produce as in other countries? What does a consumer experience when he or she walks into the produce department? How does produce advertising work? And so many more questions need to be answered so that The Fresh Approach can design new programs that will work.

And what is true of The Fresh Approach is equally true for the rest of the produce industry, as well as its affiliated organizations.

Research is one of the items most frequently cut from corporate budgets. The temptation is great to take money that is intended for research and put it in another area, such as hiring a new salesperson, which is more certain to produce obvious and practical benefits.

But to take this attitude is a truly grievous error, one that has cost companies and industries fortunes.

Research is in some ways misrepresented because it is often listed as a separate line item on a budget. The truth is that research should make all portions of our organization work more effectively.

Just look at this new project, Focus On Produce, and see how it ties in so neatly with other corporations’ goals.

The obvious connection is, of course, with those in direct contact with consumers. The Fresh Approach and PRODUCE BUSINESS are offering this program for only $995.00. Any retail produce organization in America that doesn’t purchase it is being penny wise and pound foolish. After all, what is $995.00 when you are spending millions to design and remodel produce departments and countless millions to stock and advertise them?

Just look at the commodity promotion boards or large produce companies that do consumer advertising. If they buy the study for thirty years and get one idea out of it for improving their consumer promotion and marketing, the study could be paid for ten times over. And think about the advertising agencies that design this advertising. What could better inform the creation of this advertising then hard knowledge regarding consumers’ attitudes toward produce?

Then, of course, we have grower/packer/shippers and re-packers. From the selection of new packaging to deciding what items and varieties to grow, information on consumer attitudes and opinions is imperative. The cost of this research is so small compared to the expense of these projects that to not have all the information possible available is just ludicrous.

In fact, there are major benefits to owning this study for anyone in the industry. Even a small wholesaler or grower/shipper has to talk with retailers. Isn’t it best if he knows who his customer is trying to sell? Indeed, sharp marketers will use the data in this study to become a valuable consultant to their customers.

I write this column sitting in a room surrounded by computers, printers, by reams of computer-generated charts, graphs and data. A highly professional telephone research team is at this very moment canvassing America to determine the consumers’ attitudes toward our industry, and I sit and try to imagine my grandfather, Harry, straight off the auction in New York and my great grandfather, Jacob, from the old Wallabout market in Brooklyn. I imagine what they would say if they could see all this.

That peddlers of fruits and vegetables, surely one of the world’s oldest professions, should be guided in their work by the most modern consumer research seems almost miraculous.

I hope you will read the sneak preview of Focus On Produce contained in this issue. I also hope you will purchase the study results. The Fresh Approach and PRODUCE BUSINESS have agreed to reinvest the proceeds of the sales of this research into even more extensive research activities. As such, your decision to purchase FOCUS ON PRODUCE serves not only to help your business, but to expand the information base of the entire industry.  pb