DOVER, Fla. — Trying to persuade U.S. consumers to purchase the state’s winter berries, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association is embarking on an aggressive consumer marketing campaign.

Industry promoting strawberries via foodservice, media campaignsDuring the winter, the association wants to educate Florida and East Coast consumers about the quality advantages of U.S.-grown strawberries.

The organization plans to spread its messages through billboards, television appearances, a media tour and a partnership with a regional restaurant chain.

Media campaigns

The association plans to promote its fruit through billboards in eight northeastern and southeastern cities, through media appearances and a dessert promotion with the Orlando-based Smokey Bones restaurant chain.

In Atlanta; Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; Nashville; New York; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh, the association plans to tell consumers about the winter availability of Florida strawberries.

In the February campaign, the association is set to send television weather forecasters in those cities samples of Florida strawberries for on-air promotions. The outreach also involves on-air recipe demonstrations, said Sue Harrell, director of marketing.

The media tour is designed to remind consumers that strawberries are in season in the U.S. during the winter in another, sunnier region, Harrell said.

“We want them to know that we’re in season in their local markets,” she said. “If they see berries from another country, ask for Florida because we’re in season.”

Foodservice promotion

Industry promoting strawberries via foodservice, media campaignsA promotion with the Smokey Bones restaurant chain includes a strawberries and cream cake dessert developed by Jason Gronlund, the casual dining restaurant’s vice president of culinary.

It also includes strawberry-flavored beverages.

Smokey Bones management also plans to try to motivate its staff to increase sales of the offerings through prizes, Harrell said.

A founding member of the association’s chef’s advisory board, Gronlund wanted to promote Florida strawberries and said he believed the promotion could help increase strawberries’ brand exposure, Harrell said.

Boosting social media, logos

In the overall campaign, the association expects to increase its social media presence to accompany the television campaign and media tour, billboards and restaurant promotion.

“We are trying to reach the consumers,” she said. “Because it’s snowing there, they think nothing is being grown in the U.S. Our major goal is to get them aware of Florida on the label regardless of the brand.

“If the brand has production in another country, we want to let them know they can tell the product is from Florida if they look closer at the label.”

Packers plan to affix Fresh from Florida logos on their clamshells.

Because retail promotions are expensive and include restrictions on signage and demonstrations, the industry feels it can better tell consumers about their berries through restaurant promotions, Harrell said.

This year’s campaigns also include promotions featuring work with Florida retail chains, Harrell said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., requested recipe and production information to feature in its social media sites.

Harrell said the association is working with that chain as well as with Tampa-based Sweetbay Supermarkets.

Publix Super Markets Inc., in Lakeland also effectively promotes Florida berries during the season, she said.

A chefs tour the association sponsored last year proved successful.

To further promote Florida strawberries to foodservice, the association is planning to host a food bloggers tour, Harrell said.

The campaign is funded through a $268,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop grant administered through the Tallahassee-based Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.