Retail produce executives say state and regionally sponsored programs that promote local produce can offer a sizable boon to their businesses, and benefit consumers and farmers at the same time.
The groups often provide advertising and point-of-sale material for locally grown produce, which can make promotions at retail a little easier, merchandisers told SN.
They are a growing 20phenomenon. For example, one the oldest statewide initiatives, Jersey Fresh in New Jersey, now wields a budget of $1.3 million, according to Al Murray, bureau chief of market development of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Trenton, N.J., which administers the program.
"The program started in 1983 with just a tiny little budget of $365,000," he told SN. "It's a comprehensive program where we involve the consumer, the trade and the farmers."
Jersey Fresh reaches out to consumers with television commercials, billboard ads and radio commercials that air in the Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York areas.
State officials also reach out to supermarket executives and encourage them to participate, Murray said. This year Jersey Fresh has a goal of getting its logo into 500 supermarkets statewide.
The program works with wholesalers to reach independent supermarkets that might otherwise be missed, he said.
"We have personnel out in the field, visiting as many of the chain stores as they can, distributing price cards, banners, stickers, recipes and various promotional items that the chain stores have agreed to use," Murray said. "This way the consumer sees the Jersey Fresh message in the various media outlets we're using, and they'll be able to go to the stores and identify the Jersey Fresh produce when they get there through the use of the price cards and the banners and such," Murray said. "On our television commercial, we list chain stores also. At the end of the commercial, it says, 'Jersey Fresh is available at these fine markets.' So they get a little free play out of it also," he said. Jersey Fresh requires all participating farmers to follow quality grading standards. "Our goal is to keep farming viable in this state, and Jersey Fresh has done a lot to help do that," Murray said. "It's a real win-win situation for everybody."