Living produce marketing agents say there are some unique challenges associated with their product. Those challenges range from educating consumers and retailers to breaking into new markets.
Educating retailers and consumers about the nuances of living produce can be a challenge, said Marc Clark, executive vice president of Rocket Farms Inc. a grower-shipper of living herbs in Salinas, Calif.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You really have to have the resources to be able to talk to the produce managers and send out fliers and point-of-purchase material, as well as shelf talkers, so people in the store and the consumers can see what it’s all about, and that’s probably the biggest challenge is managing that part of it.”
Rocket takes to the Internet to spread the word about its living herbs, Clark said.
“We use Facebook, our website, social media. We try to get on food shows,” he said. “We have a public relations department, and that’s something we are always trying to do.”
But, he said, it’s a slow process.
“It takes a long time for those things to mature and build momentum,” he said. “It’s kind of like building a movement. It’s kind of limited by the fact that it has soil in it. Sometimes people don’t like to have dirt in the kitchen.”
Retailers who handle Living Salad Bowls, supplied by Jenison, Mich.-based Luurtsema Sales Inc., have to be versed in displaying and caring for the product in the store, said Rob Arnold, Luurtsema’s vice president of marketing.
“On the retail side, you have to keep them looking nice, take care of the plants,” he said. “They can re-grow, but they’re not in the business of taking care of things. It costs money. Labor is a factor.”
The plants need plenty of close attention from the growers, as well, said Michelle Goldman, owner of Living Lettuce Farm, Reseda, Calif.
“I guess just the upkeep and the monitoring, making sure it has all the right nutrients that it needs is a big part,” she said. “It’s all computerized, so it lets us know when it needs this and that. We give it everything it needs. That’s why it grows faster. We give it to them constantly.”
The result is worth it, she said.
“It’s much higher quality, much higher nutrient content,” she said. “You can taste the difference. It tastes much better. It looks very bright. It actually has more value to it.”
For Mirabel, Quebec-based Hydroserre Mirabel, which has been supplying living boston lettuce for years, there are natural hurdles, said Daniel Terrault, vice president of sales and marketing.
“It’s like anything else — the challenge is the weather,” he said. “It’s too cold or hot. Weather is an intrusive factor, even though we’re in a greenhouse environment. As far as distribution, we try to close to home and not go too far away because of transportation costs. We want to try to keep within five to six hours of our place.”