Whether you’ve been in the space for decades or months, your journey to and in fresh produce is most likely a pertinent part of your personal narrative. The fact of the matter is that fresh produce is personal—very personal—yet at the same time, universally relatable. After 25 years in fresh, 15 of which have been with DMA, one of my greatest joys is watching talented people grow and truly attach themselves to the beauty, the challenge, and the inevitable failures and rewards that come with choosing a career in fresh.
Choosing fresh is easy…staying with fresh is another story.
The above is a reality that I have come to appreciate more and more through the years. First and foremost, this industry-wide commitment starts at the farm. Growers have a plethora of options for what to do with their land—and I would assert that the real estate and suddenly booming cannabis alternatives prove the point that we all have other options as to where to spend our time and talent. I knew this early on in my career, which started in the mid-90s. While I was forging my career in fresh—with no real job description, title or even an inkling of what my week would look like each Monday, by the way—my peers were hopping around high tech, chasing raises each step of the way. This to say, if I were to have fallen into the comparison trap, I might have found myself laid off and starting over, as many of them did. The lure of the “greener grass” has presented itself many times, yet for me, my choice, our company purpose, comes back to the direct correlation to the lasting impact we are all making together. In fact, I estimate this truth is the glue that keeps many of us committed to this wonderful, complex, challenging, and worthwhile journey in fresh.
Being niche isn’t always neat, but it's necessary.
Committing to fresh produce as a professional, however, was certainly an easier task than deciding to start a business with that singular focus fifteen years ago. At the time, marketing in this industry was relegated almost exclusively to the trade. I knew that produce would continue to sell no matter what, but I also knew that if the industry was going to become a more accessible, preferred choice for the masses, we needed our marketing to be better, smarter, more evidence-based, and relevant to our target audiences. As opposed to a start-up-laden industry, which actively seeks disruption and change, fresh produce is traditional and generational. For this reason, it was more than a little risky to start a marketing business dedicated to igniting change while 100% of my perceived “value” to the industry was in national account sales (namely Wal-Mart and Sam’s).
While we are aware that our marketing approach could present measurable results in other spaces, many of which have bigger budgets and greater buy-in, we also understand that the level of impact we seek to make requires the continued focus to which we’ve been dedicated for the past 15 years. Fully committed fresh produce brands, after all, are not simply the result of work that happens after a website is launched, or even the marketing that happens during a great season. Rather, building brands requires a cultural shift in mindset at all levels of a company. This reality, while not very "neat" and certainly daunting at times, requires a level of commitment, courage, and good ol' fashioned grit. Luckily for us all, there is no longer a question of IF this can work, but when and how we can best make that a reality. Produce marketing is no longer a question mark, a hypothetical, but a certainty.
The fresh produce story is what keeps us here.
I think if you canvassed most marketers in the fresh produce industry, you would find that the “storytelling” part of their work is among the most valued parts of the position. This is at least true for the 20+ marketers at our small shop! Whether it’s curating a story about fifth-generation farmers and making it relevant and accessible to Gen Z, crafting a media pitch to The Today Show, or seeing a thoughtful consumer response on social media about a client's berry fields, this is the kind of work that reminds us why we fell in love with this industry in the first place. The stories that characterize fresh produce and all the people in it are vastly abundant in reality...yet from an accessibility standpoint, are somewhat scarce. That comes back to marketing, and it is this fact alone that will keep DMA focused on fresh for the next 15 years and beyond. Finding new ways to tell stories that relate, inspire and change minds, after all, is the role of an effective marketer. At the same time, we must have the discipline, curiosity and working knowledge to find and create more ways to share these incredible, mostly untold stories of fresh produce.
We are grateful that fresh continues to choose us, too.
Choosing fresh is no longer simply an "option" for us at DMA—it's who we are, an integral and irrevocable piece of our blueprint. In turn, we wake up every day knowing that you have plenty of choices when it comes to who can help with the vast array of marketing activities you'd like to execute on behalf of your brand. It feels like we can't say this enough: we are incredibly grateful for our tenure and continued growth, both of which are borne from your belief in our promise to deliver meaningful and measurable results to your business, to your brand, and to this industry. April marks the kick-off to a year-long celebration of our 15 years serving fresh, which we began by having our most tenured team members reflect on different aspects of our journey with our core audience in mind: the fresh produce marketer.
- Looking Back: 15 Years of Fresh Produce Marketing: Mackenzie Wortham
- Business Lessons Gained from 15 Years of Fresh: Megan Zweig
- Barriers to the Evolution of Fresh Produce Marketing: Marci Allen
We hope to share in celebrating this milestone with all of you in some way throughout the year—stay tuned, and as always, thank you for believing in our work, our people, and our purpose.
We believe in the good of food that is grown.
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 team is guided by the belief that when anyone in this sector flourishes, there is a net-positive result on people, communities, and society.