Fresh commodity producers have an opportunity to heighten consumer knowledge and gain brand recognition through their participation in the Pride of New York program. "The program was created in 1996 to raise awareness about New York," Tim Pezzolesi, manager of markets and promotions of the New York state Department of Agriculture & Markets, told The Produce News June 13.
"The Pride of New York program was developed to promote and support the sale of agricultural products grown and food products processed within New York state," according to the program's website.
"The program's growing membership now includes farmers and processors, retailers, distributors, restaurants and related culinary and support associations, all working together to bring you wholesome, quality New York state products."
The "Pride of New York" logo, featuring the Statue of Liberty and a rolling farm scene, is licensed to program members for a one-time fee and can be used on packaging and other materials.
"It has really grown exponentially," Mr. Pezzolesi said of the program, attributing its popularity to increasing consumer interest in knowing how food is produced and in purchasing locally grown commodities. "It's become a lifestyle for consumers."
Collected data back up his observation. "The increase in buy-local purchases went up 30 percent [over the last two years]," he stated.
The dynamics are not a flash in the pan. Jessica Ziehm, public information officer for the New York state Department of Agriculture & Markets, said that consumers are so immersed in purchasing locally produced items that the movement can no longer be termed a trend. And the locally grown phenomenon brings universal issues of supply, food safety and security to the forefront.
As fuel prices continue to shoot through the roof, local product movement has helped reduce carbon footprints and provided economic support to local economies.
The Pride of New York program is all about customization. The department works with members on individualized promotions and continues to receive positive feedback about the program's impact. Because the program is so inclusive, Mr. Pezzolesi said that participation provides members an excellent opportunity for cross-merchandising. "We see a big opportunity with that," he said.
A retail promotions program has been initiated through a federal matching grant. According to Ms. Ziehm, applicants can obtain grants of up to $5,000 through the program. A total of $3,500 is available to promote produce, and $1,500 is available to promote value-added product.
With the exception of produce items such as tropicals, Ms. Ziehm said that New York's agricultural producers grow an extensive array of fresh commodities.
(For more on New York state produce, see the June 27, 2011, issue of The Produce News.)