Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Marketing Matters: Tips for introducing a value-added product

February 9, 2021  By Jo-Ann McArthur

You’re one of Canada’s successful fruit and vegetable growers. You run a stable operation, shipping raw product to markets far and wide. Other than trying to maximize your yield, where can you go from here?

For starters, you can try to claim some of the value of your produce for yourself. 

Canada is notorious for doing lots of primary agriculture but not taking the next step of “added value,” where the profit margins are higher. One of my go-to examples is exporting our Canadian lentils to India for added-value processing and then importing those products back to Canada for sale to Canadian consumers. 

Before taking the plunge, here are some dos and don’ts to consider for your go-to-market strategy.

DON’T worry if you can’t get listed at a major retailer right away
Buyers for grocery stores have many products to choose from and limited shelf space. Once you take away all the space given to major brands, there isn’t much left for new products. 

Focus on smaller, local retailers and ramp up as you prove demand for your product. Farmers’ markets can also be great places to run a bit of a living laboratory. Test your pricing and formulation there and fine-tune those details so you’re ready to make your pitch to big retailers.

DO harness the Internet
A strong digital presence lends credibility to your brand and gives you a platform for sharing the virtues of your new product. Think about it – have you ever tried a product after seeing their sketchy, poorly constructed webpage? 

You may be tempted to try digital retail, too. While the pandemic has greatly accelerated the acceptance of grocery shopping online, it’s an expensive proposition to take on yourself. If possible, pursue a local distributor, such as Southern Ontario’s 100km Foods, or join other local producers in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. This takes care of much of the digital legwork and lets you focus on your product.

DO tell consumers your story
As a Canadian farmer, you have a story to tell. This is no time to be shy: let everyone know what makes you special. Consumers like to know where the produce they’re eating comes from. It’s called “radical transparency” and it’s vital for selling to an increasingly conscientious audience.

Tell them how you treat your soil, your workers and your community. Ag tends to keep consumers at arm’s length, but it’s time to invite them in. COVID-19 has put our food system on the front page. Consumers who have become disconnected from food sources want to know more.

They also want to support local right now. Canadians trust farmers more than most professions out there -– leverage that! Good food with a good story and a real person behind it is a winning combination in today’s consumer climate.

DON’T try to force yourself into a crowded market
You want to find the white space and fill that void. Around our office, we like to say, “The world doesn’t need another chocolate chip cookie.” Introducing a similar product means competing on price, and that’s a race to the bottom. 

Who would have thought that pre-cut frozen avocados would have been a huge new product five years ago? There’s still lots of white space out there for those willing to study the markets, find the gaps and truly innovate.

DO put time and money into it
A brand is all about trust. You want to make a good first impression and let shoppers know what’s best about you and why they can trust you. Part of that involves well thought-out and executed packaging and branding. A designer who knows how to create “pretty” ads, but not how to sell in a food environment, is not the right person to trust with this important job.

Instead, make an investment in yourself and hire a professional marketing service. Finding the right look and feel for your brand and your product is a crucial step towards success. •

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