Archive for 'Observations'

We Would Not Want The Truth Get In The Way Of A Good Story

As I mentioned in blog entry “The Grocery Fullfilment Conundrum”, there was a second element in that NZ Herald article  of 3 August 2013 which caught my eye. Here is the offending paragraph…”Our survey showed some fresh fruit and vegetables were cheaper at Countdown than at an independent fruit shop but Fox said they would likely not last as long. She said the best place for fruit and veg was a Saturday morning market. There, people could buy in bulk and it would be fresher and better quality.”

There is absolutely no denial that visiting  markets is a very popular Saturday morning pastime for many city dwellers the world over. And if the image displayed in this blog is anything to go by, then we need to get used to Farmers Markets not being a passing phenomenon. They are here to stay alright. (The image is the back cover of the NZ Herald’s most recent weekend magazine and it is actually an advertisement for a radio station.Farmers market image) But none of that means that wild statements made by people with little knowledge should be allowed to go unchallenged. What industry and industry observers like myself are used to is the unrelenting negative commentary on supermarket pricing by people who have no comprehension of the intricacies of the fresh produce supply chain. So when Countdown then gets reported as having cheaper fruits and vegetables than independent greengrocers, what happens? Instead of letting that fact speak for itself, we need to immediately find some opinionated commentator to offer a negative angle, because the facts don’t suit the editorial direction. To imply that produce that reaches the consumer through the supermarket channel “will not last as long” as that purchased from an independent fruit shop is an outrageous piece of misinformation. Yes, there are some Saturday markets where indeed fruit & vegetable growers  are offering their produce direct to the consumer. In many cases that produce can be fresher if it has been harvested the night before or early the same morning. But to expect that to be the case with all produce sold at all markets  is based on a romantic myth fed by a lack of knowledge, a fair degree of ignorance, an unwillingness to put in the hard yards to establish the facts and an unfortunate tendency to generalise. It has been my experience that supermarkets take freshness and quality far more serious than journos give them credit for. Could they do more to increase awareness? Sure. Do they at times get it wrong? Sure. But give me a UK newspaper anytime. Their journos still know how to write an objective story.

Brand Exposure Is Not Always Positive

chiquita I took the photo recently on the main railway station in Munich. I am digging it out again because I have been contemplating the DOLE position vis a vis the Oxfam report on banana plantation ethics. On one hand, here is DOLE trying to position its fruit at the sustainable/ethical/credible end of the supply spectrum. On the other hand, CHIQUITA is busy trying to break out from the produce shelf, aiming its offer direct at the consumer.

There is a common theme here. Both companies have built up considerable brand equity in their brand over the decades. Naturally, when one is in such a position, one can be forgiven for looking for arising commercial advantages. In both cases, it involves a positioning exercise with the consumer. Which approach is more plausible do you think? Saying to commuters, “hey look, you can also trust my brand when it comes to buying quality and healthy fruit, fruit snacks and juices for you to eat on your train journey” – or telling shoppers, “we believe we are good corporate citizens and are prepared to tell you that by way of a label to that effect on each bunch of fruit?”

I don’t actually think a straight comparison is possible…but both efforts would not have been undertaken lightly because no business owner goes and deliberately exposes his brand to unnecessary risk. Any new development or initiative undertaken in companies with a high degree of brand equity will sooner rather than later trigger the question, “Do we fully understand how this possible decision would impact on our brand?”

So at the very least , we need to assume that DOLE has not rushed like a headless chicken into a situation where they issue labels which blatantly provide incorrect information. A more likely scenario is this: DOLE would have over the years invested considerable sums into improving the working environment on the banana farms and through that the living standards of employees. Results would have been measurable, prompting the DOLE marketing department to come up with the label approach. The marketing guys would not have had any qualms about this approach, because they believed the results were visible and the campaign justified.

Unfortunately, the discerning first world consumer with a bend towards sustainability, fair trade, political motivation and a transfer of wealth from developed to developing nations cannot agree that the level of positive changes achieved warrant the label and the campaign. Particularly in New Zealand where three vocal people can represent a pressure group which Government is prone to listen to. On any topic…not just bananas.

Then there is the small matter that the charity crying wolf about DOLE’s label happens to be supporting a competing banana project… where are the ethics in that?

In the meantime, DOLE has done the decent thing and suspended the use of the label.

If my attitude towards marketing managers sounds a bit cynical – I remember a Foodtown marketing manager who had a giant guillotine built for a TV commercial. He parked the monstrosity at the top of the Whangaparoa Peninsula cliffs, and filmed cabbage and other unsuspecting produce being chopped in half and chucked down the cliff onto the beach in an attempt to convince customers that produce prices had been permanently reduced…Needless to say, the campaign was a total flop.

And I will, by the way, read the Oxfam report and comment more in due course.

The Role of Fruit & Veg In Our Society

I HAD POSTED THIS CONTRIBUTION A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO…THINGS DO NOT CHANGE THOUGH.  THE CURRENT DEBATE HERE IN NEW ZEALAND ABOUT THE NEED FOR A “FOOD IN SCHOOLS” PROGRAMME IS HIGHLIGHTING THAT THE PROBLEM OF PRODUCE PRICE PERCEPTION IS ALIVE AND WELL. BUGGER.

NEAT AND TIDY PRODUCE DISPLAY

NEAT AND TIDY PRODUCE DISPLAY

 

I have discussed fresh produce pricing on a number of occasions – as those who visit here regularly will have noticed.

Well, I had an epiphany last week.  I think I have the answer to the problem of fresh produce pricing…

I was listening to the segment on National Radio where they rattle through the headlines from the New Zealand newspapers around the regions and one headline caught my ear – enough to make me look up the news item in question from the Dominion Post.

So, what are the issues again?

People need to eat fresh fruit and veg.  But the price of fresh produce is too high for people afford, so their health is at risk, according to nutritionists.

Growers need to make a living from growing and supplying fresh produce.  But the price of fresh produce is too low for them to do that, so their livelihood (and our food supply) is at risk, according to growers.

“Somebody” isn’t prepared to pay growers a high enough price for their produce and that “somebody” is being driven by the behaviour of the consumer.

So who is driving this consumer behaviour?  The influences are many and varied, ranging from the mother-in-law, the school, the mommy bloggers, the kids, nutritionists in the media, the consumer’s own perception and so on…

I’m going to stick my neck out here:

the glass ceiling for fresh produce prices exists to a large extent because people like nutritionists persist with pushing the idea that fruit & veg should be cheap!

Here’s my answer, then.

What needs to happen is that the fresh produce industry takes the nutritionists in hand and makes them understand the commercial realities of growing fruit & vegetables, so that the nutritionists’ ability to influence can be harnessed better in correctly position produce on the consumers’ plate.

David Smith – Pony Finder Extraordinaire

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© 2013 Chattanoogaville.com

Many of you would have heard the following story before, in one form or another…

“One day a scientist decided to run a test on two boys. He took the pessimistic boy to a room full of new toys, telling him that they were all his. He immediately began to cry saying that one day they would all break. He then took the optimistic boy to an old barn which contained a huge pile of fresh steaming horse manure. The boy was immediately excited, grabbed a shovel and began digging in the manure. The stunned scientist asked the boy what he was doing. The boy immediately responded that with all this horse manure there has to be a pony in here somewhere.” (Anonymous).

And we have all been watching the fall out at Turners & Growers with great interest…

Well, if there is one guy in the New Zealand produce industry who has over decades consistently displayed great aptitude in finding the pony, then it would have to be Dave Smith at Freshmax.

Snow Hardy, Terry Brown and now Alistair Petrie are a right little troika of ex T&G ponies to emerge at Freshmax.  I would suggest – watch this space.

And now, for some thing completely different, here is a link to a famous Monty Python sketch, where John Cleese is teaching his colleagues how to defend themselves against being attacked by fresh fruit.  The banana segment is especially worthwhile watching.

CASH NOT WELCOME HERE

I have grown up with a few motherhood statements and I am sure I am not alone with that. Here are three I remember from my early childhood; I was probably three years old…

1. Do not cut potatoes with a knife. (very German piece of useless etiquette)

2. Vegetables are good for you. (Debatable from a child’s perspective)

3. Money buys sweets, toys & icecream. (Later supplemented with beer, wine & cigars)

Money at the time was defined as folding stuff and round metal disks of various sizes which made a racket in one’s pocket – or fell out if one ‘s mother had not done her job properly.

In latter years, cheque books, credit cards, debit cards, chip cards and electronic transfers made it into my arsenal. Nothing, however, prepared me for this Dutch store that rejected my cash.

It looks like society is heading for a major paradigm shift in the not so distance future.

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