NEW ORLEANS -- In an effort to enhance the image of fresh-cut produce while at the same time educating both buyers and consumers on the strong selling points of value-added products, the United Fresh Produce Association has designed a "toolkit" specific to that market segment.
During a morning workshop here at the United Fresh convention and trade show, several leaders of the fresh-cut industry explained elements of the toolkit and directed attendees to the association's web site for a free download.
Facilitated by Jeff Oberman, United staff coordinator, the session opened with Jan Berk, vice president of marketing and business development for San Miguel Produce, explaining issues and perceptions associated with fresh-cut.
Ms. Berk said that the industry faces an "image problem" and that the toolkit provides a means of addressing the problem through study results and common goals and objectives.
"The perception [by consumers] was that fresh-cut was too expensive and not a good value. And there were also concerns that the produce is not always too fresh … and not as healthy," Ms. Berk said. "We realized we had a long way to go" to overcome those perceptions.
Phil Gruszka, vice president of Grimmway Enterprises, said that fresh-cut is a diverse industry but that there are "a lot of commonalities."
Focusing on the health aspects of fresh-cut produce, Mr. Gruszka said that a generic message on the clean, fresh and convenient aspects of the product can be conveyed. "If one of us acts on the message, that's good. And if two of us start sending the same message, that's better," he said.
In the toolkit were several taglines and logos that have been developed for fresh-cut, including "Farm Fresh," "Table Ready," "No Waste, No Mess" and "Wholesome Healthy Fresh."
Tony Freytag, director of marketing for Crunch Pak, addressed the social media aspect of messaging. "There's an app for United Fresh," he said, adding that "social media gives us a voice."
Mr. Freytag continued, "You can tell your story, and social media builds connections and starts conversations. In value-added, it's important to please the custumer, but really it's the consumer we need to reach. This is the chance to tell your story, to engage [with consumers] and to listen. If they think you're not listening, they'll go somewhere else."
Regarding Facebook, Twitter and other social media, he said, "Just do it. Talk to others who are doing it. Ask questions. We have three people on our staff who work on our social media and are populating our web site with videos. We have a Facebook page. We Twitter. We have a blogger. But you can't just put it up there and let it sit. You have to change it, keep it interesting. And be careful what you wish for … because not everyone is going to be happy. But do it. Get started and play with it."
Tackling some misperceptions about fresh-cut, Minos Athanassiadis, consultant with Fresh Link Group, said that a video has been developed to show that foodservice is a valued market.
"There is a misperception that chefs don't like fresh-cut," Mr. Athanassiadis said. "But I know for a fact that the whole foodservice industry changed when we started producing salad kits."
The video presentation featured Chef Camille Renk in "Camille's Kitchen Goivideo," produced by Fresh Link Group. Chef Camille said that she relies on fresh-cut for healthy, convenient and fast meal preparation, and Mr. Athanassiadis said that the video is downloadable from the United web site.
"The key point is that we want to address various misconceptions consumers may have," he said.
The entire toolkit will be downloadable by the end of May and will be commodity-specific.