After a slow start to the spring deal following early March freezes, May ended up being a record month for Florida sweet corn. Shipments for the month are up more than 27 percent from average May volume during the previous two years.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to this success. The development of the "Sunshine Sweet" brand has provided retailers with consistently superior quality throughout the spring, and innovative promotional offerings provide members greater flexibility in developing effective programs with their customers.
According to Mike Aerts, director of marketing and membership at the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, this success has been built through member efforts.
"The fancy grade seed varieties that growers have selected for the 'Sunshine Sweet' brand and the quality assurances that handlers have implemented have provided buyers with an easily identifiable source for great-tasting spring corn," Aerts said in a press release. "Now we are working to make that brand more visible to consumers."
A consumer public relations and advertising campaign helped drive demand. To date, over 200 million consumers have been reached through paid and earned media. Communications have been focused on positioning 'Sunshine Sweet' corn as a sought after vegetable of spring, with recipes and imaging that move consumers beyond traditional views of corn as a summertime tradition.
Combined with a first-ever Pinterest contest, ongoing SEO efforts and blogger media outreach, traffic to Sunshinesweetcorn.com is up over 2,000 percent from the previous year.
"The integrated approach being implemented allows for members to work with retailer partners on the push while we work on the pull side by growing consumer demand," Jason Stemm, vice president at CRT/tanaka, a New York-based agency that works with the Florida sweet corn industry, added in the press release. "Simultaneous investment in both sides of the marketing mix by the grower and shipper members has helped to grow the category to everyone's benefit."
The record weeks have been in spite of colder spring weather in northern states, a factor often cited by retailers as the greatest influencer on sales.
The success this year can be linked to efforts to show consumers how to prepare and serve corn in a variety of ways. The website has been enhanced in recent years to include videos and more recipes in which fresh sweet corn is prepared with other seasonal favorites and year-round staples.
Florida is the largest grower of fresh sweet corn in the U.S., with peak volumes in April and May.