To Brand or Not to Brand

To Brand or Not To Brand?
How important is branding for fresh produce grower-shippers? It depends on who is being asked. Wholesalers and retailers have different perspectives on branding, and there are big differences between consumer groups. Here is what we’re observing about branding for grower-shippers from our vantage point at FreshXperts.


For produce receivers and retailers, brand is, in general, only as important as product quality. “They care about your brand if your brand equals consistency – consistent availability and consistent quality,” says FreshXperts co-founder Anthony Totta. This is why so many grower-shippers choose to grow and pack for well-established brands like Dole, Green Giant and Driscolls – all brands with established reputations and quality controls reaching all the way back to which seed or variety is grown on the farm.


Most grower-shippers don’t decide to build a national brand. Brand-building is expensive, and few farms have the organizational infrastructure to keep track of product quality from farm to consumer. “There are so many ways that produce quality can be compromised between the farm and the grocery store, even in the produce section,” notes Totta. “If you decide to build your own farm brand, you have to choose supply chain partners that are going to be good custodians of the brand.”


Return on investment for produce branding is also sometimes difficult to achieve, especially as consumer tastes for brands change. “We are seeing some shifts among retail customers,” observes Totta. “The millennials tend to be more selective in picking certain brands of produce, and other food, based on the (brand) story than the Boomers and older GenXers.”


Market research into fresh produce purchases also reveals brands are not as important to produce customers overall. “Brand” influenced only 17% of fruit purchases and 20% of vegetable purchases by grocery customers in 2015, according to a report from the University of California, citing a Food Marketing Institute study.


But there are other branding strategies that can add to a grower-shipper’s profitability. FreshXperts encourages clients to look at entering smaller markets which may justify investment from branding collateral. “You can start with branding locally and regionally,” says Totta. “Customizing the brand to fit the market can be very important.”


Local and regional brands can also play into a grower-shipper’s business growth as new generations return to farm management. Some family members may show interest in developing local or direct market programs – subscription-based produce delivery, on-farm festivals and off-farm processing are not uncommon – while the wholesale enterprise continues.


Could there be potential for expanding your enterprise through building a local or regional brand? Contact FreshXperts to schedule a consultation to discuss possibilities branding can bring your business.




UC Report/FMI Study


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Anthony Totta

Anthony Totta

This industry is filled with passionate people who love what they do. Most come from wonderful entrepreneurial family businesses with a rich heritage. So do I. I've learned from them. The've learned from me. Together we promote nutritionally rich fresh food for healthy living. It's a fabulous journey and a wonderful mission!