Branding in the produce department is more than just a label.
It has to be a promise to the consumer that extends from seed to fork through every worker in the company, says Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of DMA Solutions BB #:188910, whether it’s a produce company or a retailer promoting the brand.
“There are some incredible retail brands such as Trader Joe’s BB #:162286,” Almy says, “but there are retail brands that don’t and damage the whole category.”
She says that if a retailer doesn’t invest in their produce brand, it becomes a race to the bottom, which depresses the ability to raise produce consumption.
Pamela Riemenschneider, Retail Editor for Blue Book, says on the webinar that there are retailers doing a good job of delivering high quality with their private brands, such as HEB BB #:106490, which even incorporates some proprietary varieties (such as apples) in their private labels.
But it doesn’t work when they don’t differentiate a product, like a premium brand will, she says. It can’t just be about low price.
“With inflation being so bad, there are fewer price promotions” at retail, Riemenschneider says. “Now is the opportunity for brand promotions.”
She says that Hyvee BB #:101759, for instance, heavily promotes the produce brands they carry, placing the quality promise on them as well.
“Brands that stand for something can break through price being the only motivator,” Almy says.
“Consumers understand seasonality, and that can drive demand,” she says.
Joe Watson, VP of membership and engagement for PMA, and former produce retailer, says private label used to just be about lower prices, but now sometimes it can bring a premium price, and that’s concerning to fresh produce brands.
This conflict is further complicated by the rise of online shopping.
Too often when it comes to fresh produce in e-commerce, the produce department leaders aren’t driving promotions online, the panel agreed.
“There’s a disconnect in many retailers with online and operations,” Watson says.
“Some produce on websites, it’s a travesty,” Almy says. But she says produce companies will usually happily provide product photos to help their retail customers.
“The last 18 months showed a lot of retailers got dumped in the deep end” of e-commerce, Riemenschneider says.
“If you had that conversation [about better branding online] before, do it again because retailers are getting better and making more money,” she says.
“Brands need to educate and inspire, whether they’re produce companies or private label,” Almy says.