The fresh produce industry has historically shied away from new product launches and left this expensive playing field to our packaged goods counterparts who have the resources to develop and promote new items like purple ketchup, probiotic yogurt and five ingredient ice cream.

Pay attention and position new products to win

Don Goodwin
Golden Sun Marketing

New product launches in every category come with fears surrounding expensive research and development, comprehensive marketing and public relations, retail integration and execution challenges, pricing strategies and retail buy in.

The list of “to-dos” for a new item launch seems daunting to most, and one might conclude it is an absurd investment based on the chances of limited success.

On the other hand, I contest that there is no better time than now for the introduction of new fruit and vegetable items.

Fresh produce is currently on-trend and front of mind with consumers seeking healthy, delicious and versatile foods.

Additionally, savvy marketing professionals and game-changing resources are opening the playing field to everyone, not just those with the deepest pockets.

Traditionally, the produce industry has approached new item launches with a predictable menu of resources, including requests for ads, demos and point-of-sale material, creating awareness at retail, but failing to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

In fact, consumers are sometimes not even considered as part of the equation and the product fails to meet consumer expectations.

Positioning is the most important aspect of new products. It goes beyond the marketing plan and elevates the entire essence of the product.

Positioning is always about the audience, and it starts with convincing them that the item is better than the competition.

Key to consumers

Positioning is also key to pricing. Our industry often views production costs or similar items as the key measure for setting price and often undervalues the impact of marketing as a means to establish higher selling prices.

What is the maximum price that consumers will pay for Driscoll’s strawberries, Cuties clementines or Tasteful Selections potatoes?

Can we raise their willingness to pay for our products by aggressively marketing our products?

I submit that the success of items like Cuties clementines starts with consistent quality products but is carried forward by great packaging and creative marketing that has established brand awareness among consumers.

This brand awareness creates product positioning that commands top-of-the-market prices for a product that is not new or different than the competition, just well marketed.

I suspect that the investment in marketing has been worthwhile for the premium price these growers enjoy over the rest of the market.

We’ve long known that promotion is a critical component to marketing and a new product launch. Promotion is all encompassing and can include various forms of marketing, including the game-changing social media.

Web outreach

This new marketing tool has found its niche among traditional media where things like direct mail, free standing inserts, radio and TV have been cost prohibitive.

With new tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and interactive websites, the cost of consumer marketing campaigns can be far more affordable while also creating communities of loyal word-of-mouth fans and friends.

However, keep in mind that although social media has replaced traditional media as a place where consumers gather and collect information, consumers aren’t keen on being marketed to.

The rules of engagement are different and require a more subtle approach rather than blatant “buy my product” tactics.

Public relations is also a common promotional tool used as an effective means for reaching media influencers and thought leaders.

From food editors to lifestyle journalists at TV, radio and print publications around the globe, word of your products can spread.

Tap into resources

As mentioned earlier, fresh produce is on trend, and it provokes consumer interest that is perpetuated by cooking shows, recipes, diet and exercise advice and overall health discussions related to obesity and obesity related disease.

Writers are hungry for information and to be in the know about fresh new products. In fact, during the launch of the Opal apple, The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Glamour Magazine food blog covered this new item.

I’m not convinced that a new apple variety would have been newsworthy 10-15 years ago. Leverage the media and share your products and your story.

And finally in way of promotion, don’t overlook the retail partnership that extends beyond the buyer’s office. Integrate fully with retail marketing departments to leverage retail communities.

Many retailers effectively employ e-newsletters, Facebook, Web announcements and in-store magazines to keep their shoppers connected.

Many of these tools are available for little or no cost and can be very effective in creating awareness with your direct consumer.

When one retailer announced the Opal apple on its Facebook page, several consumers responded with favorable comments and reposts to their own Facebook pages and blogs creating increased consumer impressions. This contributed to greater buzz and trusted word-of-mouth advertising.

Clearly new product launches have risk and reward, but a well-planned marketing campaign that utilizes a variety of resources can help you look like a packaged goods company without spending like one while delivering higher than market returns that will find your product in supermarkets for years to come.

Don Goodwin is the owner of Golden Sun Marketing, a consulting firm specializing in the fresh produce supply chain from seed to retail. E-mail don@goldensunmarketing.com

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