In an interview with The Snack earlier this year, I made the assertion that:
If this industry started investing even 1 percent of sales—at a minimum—on marketing, we would be unstoppable.
Now to put it lightly, I don’t typically suggest that fresh produce companies take all their cues from the consumer packaged goods sector. But here’s one thing CPG almost always gets right: they invest in marketing, and they align their marketing budgets to sales performance. For reference, marketing spend for CPG brands ranges anywhere from 6-14% of revenue —and some spend well over that! While I’m not suggesting that percentage is necessary for fresh produce brands, I certainly advocate correlating your marketing spend to sales.
Why is that important?
Understand that when Doritos and Snickers see an increase in sales, their marketing spend increases too, which in turn drives more products, more innovation, and more sales. Now, luckily for us, companies in this industry do not need to allocate nearly that much to gain major marketing momentum (starting at between 1-5% is both fiscally feasible and sufficient to create a big impact). Keep in mind what large processed food companies are selling: significant marketing dollars are required in order to secure shelf space and divert attention from their ingredients. Fresh produce, on the other hand, doesn’t have that problem. For us, outspending CPG should not be the goal, but outsmarting them will be required, and that begins with a scalable marketing spend based on business growth.
Because many fresh produce companies determine their marketing spend by selecting an arbitrary (and typically unchanging) number, they can’t even begin to compete using similar tactics. In this industry, there can be a disconnect between desired results and available spend—basically, many companies dream about generating CPG results, but they aren’t willing to spend even a tenth of the money CPG actually spends.
Now I believe that we have some excellent marketers in fresh produce, but no one is that good, friends. Until marketing spend is determined by fiscal performance, know that you have already determined the outcome for your marketing team—which is, at best, a plateau. Because like it or not, the world has just changed over the past fifteen years, consumer demands and preferences have changed, and many in the industry have failed to change along with it.
The reality is that many marketers are still fighting for executive buy-in on the importance of basics like social media—struggles that companies in other industries were grappling with, say, seven years ago. We are behind, and the key to catching up is to provide marketers with the tools they need to bring marketing in our industry fully into the 21st century.
Not that this is news to fresh produce marketers, but here’s the hard truth: until we truly invest in marketing, we will be stuck operating as commodities—or at best, what I would categorize as a “name in the industry.” Many organizations may decide to focus solely on selling produce—and do just fine at that—but they won’t be elevating their categories…or inspiring greater demand for fresh produce, either. At the end of the day, isn’t that why we’re all here in the first place?
Dan’l Mackey Almy’s passion for fresh produce has paved the way for her dynamic career as an industry trailblazer. After selling produce for a decade, she recognized that in order for the industry to progress, it would be necessary for fresh produce companies to focus on how to market products more effectively. Since 2004, she has worked alongside the DMA Solutions team and progressive clients to transform marketing and elevate brands in a once commodity-centric industry. The DMA is guided by the belief that when anyone in this sector flourishes, there is a net-positive result on people, communities, and society.
For more fresh produce marketing inspiration and insight from the DMA Solutions team, follow us on Twitter at @TheCoreBlog.